Emotional Earnhardt earns Talladega victory

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has collected his sixth win at the Alabama superspeedway.

Emotional Earnhardt earns Talladega victory
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
This is Talladega
Pack racing
The Big One at Talladega
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Race action
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet and Sam Hornish Jr., Richard Petty Motorsports Ford and Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Greg Ives and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Pack racing
Start
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Tony Stewart, Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Michael Waltrip and Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr, who was battling high temps with debris on the grille, captured the checkered flag in the Geico 500 thriller at Talladega Superspeedway. The margin of victory over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson was just .159 seconds.

“I knew they were going to try and so something on that last lap, but I didn’t know what it would be,” said a highly emotional Earnhardt in victory lane.  He won for the sixth time at Talladega and the 24th time in his illustrious career. He got emotional during the interview, which you can watch below.

Earnhardt led 67 of the 188 laps around the high-banked 2.66-mile oval, the most laps he's led in a single race this year. 

“Racing and winning here is some of the hardest racing we do on a mental scale,” the victor said. “When you are halfway, you think to yourself how much is left in the tank as you feel like you have been racing for 10 hours with the hard stuff still to come.  When I was young, I did everything on a whim and now I over-analyze every move I make. Luckily, it worked out the way it did."

“Before the race, I felt I needed to be in lead at the end as it so hard to pass the leader.  And I wanted to be running the low line, which I did.  When we hit the tri-oval, I felt like everything was going to be OK but  something in my head told me the motor was going to break because that happens sometimes in racing.  But we got to the end.

“We had a lot of supporters here because of dad’s success here as he won so many races.  I think about all the races he did win here and at Daytona.  I love it when we go to victory lane, as I feel I add to his legacy and make him proud.  I don’t think about him that much but I do miss him.”

Earnhardt was nearly overcome with emotion in victory lane and again during the post-race media interviews.

#88 in the Chase

After the win, Earnhardt did a Polish victory lap to the delight of the large crowd that stayed around for the post-race ceremonies.

Becoming the eighth different winner of the Sprint Cup season, Earnhardt gained a provisional spot in the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“The emotion of making the Chase is special, and I don’t think people appreciate the pressure that is on these teams to make the Chase and to get these wins,” Earnhardt said with deep conviction.  

Earnhardt led 67 of the 188 laps around the high-banked 2.66-mile oval.

Crew chief earns first Cup win

“It means a lot to us and the team,” noted crew chief Greg Ives about his first win as Earnhardt’s crew chief.  “Winning for an organization like Hendrick Motorsports and Rick Hendrick, it means a lot as you are thankful for your position.  Whether you are crew chief or sweeping the floors, I will work any day for Rick Hendrick, so this win means a lot to me.   I won’t be satisfied

Paul Menard gave RCR it's one shining moment of the day, finishing third while his three teammates suffered issues throughout the day.

Ryan Blaney placed a career-best fourth in the famed Wood Brothers No. 21. Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top five after a last-lap scramble.

Sam Hornish Jr., Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Josh Wise (first career top ten in 113 starts) rounded out the top ten. 

The field ran single file for the final 20 laps until the white flag flew. As drivers pulled out to make their moves though, two wrecks ensued but NASCAR did not throw the caution, allowing the remaining drivers to race to the stripe.

The race came to a halt after 46 laps when a massive wreck ensued on the backstretch, damaging 16 race cars. Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Danica Patrick, David Ragan, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, and Ryan Newman were some of the notable drivers involved.

The race, which saw 27 lead changes among 15 different drivers, was slowed by six cautions and one red flag.

RESULTS

POS. CAR#DRIVER STARTING POS. LAPS LAPS LED FINAL STATUSPOINTSBONUS POINTS
1 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr 4 188 67 Running 48 5
2 48 Jimmie Johnson 5 188 50 Running 43 1
3 27 Paul Menard 7 188 0 Running 41 0
4 21 Ryan Blaney 3 188 0 Running 0 0
5 78 Martin Truex Jr 36 188 0 Running 39 0
6 9 Sam Hornish Jr 12 188 0 Running 38 0
7 31 Ryan Newman 18 188 0 Running 37 0
8 4 Kevin Harvick 24 188 1 Running 37 1
9 11 Denny Hamlin 17 188 5 Running 36 1
10 98 Josh Wise 34 188 1 Running 35 1
11 1 Jamie McMurray 27 188 0 Running 33 0
12 41 Kurt Busch 19 188 1 Running 33 1
13 35 Cole Whitt 41 188 2 Running 32 1
14 23 J.J. Yeley 42 188 0 Running 0 0
15 43 Aric Almirola 28 188 0 Running 29 0
16 7 Alex Bowman 37 188 0 Running 28 0
17 47 AJ Allmendinger 31 188 0 Running 27 0
18 83 Matt DiBenedetto 43 188 0 Running 26 0
19 14 Tony Stewart 6 188 6 Running 26 1
20 38 David Gilliland 39 188 1 Running 25 1
21 10 Danica Patrick 25 188 0 Running 23 0
22 2 Brad Keselowski 15 188 0 Running 22 0
23 51 Justin Allgaier 35 188 1 Running 22 1
24 34 Chris Buescher 38 188 0 Running 0 0
25 20 Matt Kenseth 8 188 0 Running 19 0
26 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr 29 188 1 Running 19 1
27 32 Bobby Labonte 32 188 1 Running 18 1
28 13 Casey Mears 11 188 1 Running 17 1
29 46 Michael Annett 40 188 0 Running 15 0
30 15 Clint Bowyer 10 188 0 Running 14 0
31 24 Jeff Gordon 1 188 47 Running 14 1
32 19 Carl Edwards 22 188 0 Running 12 0
33 22 Joey Logano 21 186 0 Running 11 0
34 5 Kasey Kahne 2 158 3 Running 11 1
35 3 Austin Dillon 14 157 0 Engine 9 0
36 55 Michael Waltrip 23 151 0 Running 8 0
37 16 Greg Biffle 20 147 0 Running 7 0
38 18 David Ragan 9 123 0 Running 6 0
39 40 Landon Cassill 30 91 0 Accident 0 0
40 62 Brendan Gaughan 33 90 0 Accident 0 0
41 6 Trevor Bayne 26 46 0 Accident 3 0
42 42 Kyle Larson 13 46 0 Accident 2 0
43 33 Brian Scott 16 18 0 Engine 0 0

 

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