Earnhardt feeling comfortable at Martinsville - NOTES by Lugnut - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

NASCAR NOTES: Earnhardt feeling comfortable at Martinsville

Photo Credit: 284321Sprin Photo Credit: 284321Sprin
Glenn Campbell - "The Lugnut Cowboy" Glenn Campbell - "The Lugnut Cowboy"

Martinsville Speedway has not always been one of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s most successful race tracks. In fact in his first race, he hit everything around him including an ambulance.

"Yeah, the ambulance wouldn't move," said Earnhardt about the incident. "I had to give him a bit of the bumper."

Earnhardt recalls that his father was not too pleased with his son's driving style that day making the ride home a little testy.

"I remember I was taking a helicopter ride with my dad and Michael Waltrip," continued NASCAR's most popular driver. "I ran over everything and finally Dad was like, man, tell that kid to park it."

He's come a long way since that first race and now Earnhardt Jr. is considered one of the best when it come to competing on the historic Martinsville track.

"It took me a few trips to really learn to be more patient, to let the race sort of come to me," explained Junior on his improvement. "You don't do all your work in the first 100 laps, and you've sort of got to wait out the competition and let your crew make good choices and good strategy that keeps you in the thick of things and then have an opportunity at the end."

Having patience is hard when there are other drivers fighting for every inch of race track that they can find on each lap. Yet Earnhardt maintains that a cool head is the key to success.

"The racing there is nothing what you imagine," continued Earnhardt. "It's just really tough and hard racing, and you've got to pick your battles. But it's a long race and you can really just take yourself out of it early if you're not careful."

Not only do you have to keep your emotions in check, you also have to constantly seek for ways to keep your race car fast for the entire 500 miles.

"You've got to be flexible and open-minded to where your car wants to be and where it wants to run," Earnhardt said. "When you do find what works, you've got to be able to repeat it over and over without getting too greedy. It is about repetition, finding things that work on entry, through the middle and off the corner that work lap after lap as the track changes."

Earnhardt admits that to him, the racing at Martinsville hasn't changed over the years and the history of the place is one reason that he enjoys coming her so much.

"You park your car in the driveway of the first house on the corner," said Earnhardt on the historic look of the track. "That house has been there for I don't know how many years and your first impressions bring you back to the mid-'70s. The only thing that really reminds you of where you're at and what decade you're in is the model of the cars in the parking lot."

It's been an experience for Earnhardt to get from running into ambulances to winning races at Martinsville. However, now he feels that he has things well under control and knows what it takes to be successful. If he keeps his cool this weekend, there could be another Earnhardt name etched into that Grand Father Clock trophy this weekend.

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