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article imageNASCAR: Clock chimes on special win for Earnhardt Jr.

By John Duarte     Oct 27, 2014 in Sports
Ridgeway - Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his fourth race of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season on Sunday, but the win was bittersweet. Despite the “special meaning” of the victory, he won't be able to challenge for the title he has chased his whole career on the circuit
In 16 years of racing in the Sprint Cup series, Earnhardt has never won the Sprint Cup title. His best placing came in 2003, when he finished third in the running, and he has placed fifth overall on three separate occasions, including in 2013. Earnhardt was eliminated from contending for this year's championship after last week's race at Talladega. He couldn't hide the disappointment of again being on the outside looking in, but praised his crew for the work they did this year and said it bodes well for next season.
“The disappointment in this Chase beat all that success and all that mojo and all that pride, all that excitement out of these guys,” Earnhardt said. “To win today sort pf reminds the team, more importantly than myself, that what we got is a good thing.
“I'm glad we were able to get a win, remind ourselves that if we keep working hard, keep trying, maybe we will win the championship like we want to. We're definitely a good enough team.” He wrapped up the 2014 season simply. “This wasn't our year.”
Beyond the disappointment of being out of the running for the championship, the win at Martinsville Speedway still holds special meaning personally for Earnhardt Jr. He had never won at the race track known as The Paperclip, because of its configuration of long straightaways and tight turns. He had never won the race trophy, a grandfather clock that represents the region's long tradition in furniture making. He recalled how his father, Dale Sr., had won several races at the track and brought home several trophies. He said he had always wanted one of his own.
“I remember one in particular that sat at the front door, in the hall by the stairs,” he said. “(There was) this little round rug right in that hallway that I'd run my Matchbox cars on, listening to the race on the Motor Racing Network. That clock would ring on the hour. I always wanted one.”
On Sunday, Earnhardt Jr. finally got his grandfather clock.
“This is so special,” he said. “I try not to get too caught up in the emotion of it because it's a team deal, but this is very personal and very special to me to be able to win here.”
Jeff Gordon finished second in the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 and is placed well in the overall standings as he continues his drive for his fifth Sprint Car championship. He last won the title in 2001.
With the win at Martinsville falling to a driver not in the eight in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, it means at least two of the places in the final four vying for the title in the final race of the season, at Homestead-Miami Speedway, will be based on the points standings. Gordon and third-place finisher Ryan Newman were both happy with the strong finishes.
“Good points today,” said Gordon of his race standing. “That makes me feel better about finishing second today, that it was second to somebody that's not in the Chase. Had that been somebody in the Chase, it would have been hard to swallow.”
Newman was a bit more stoic. He said he can't let finishing third this week alter his preparation for next week's race, or the one after that.
“To me, it's just another race. We came here to do what we needed to do,” he said. “We're going to Texas to do what we need to do. To me, it's just another race. It's an entirely different race that what we had today at Martinsville. Phoenix will be the same.”
Three races remain on the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. The AAA Texas 500 goes Nov. 2 at Texas Motor Speedway, followed by the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 one week later at Phoenix International Raceway. After the Arizona race, the field of contenders for the Sprint Cup will be trimmed to the four drivers who will take part in a one-race run for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway, on Nov. 16, 2014.
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