Talladega Recap: Chase Robinson
In the featured video, TV24's Chase Robinson highlights Dale Earnhardt, Jr. big win this weekend at the Talladega Superspeedway.
(Press Release below courtesy Talladega Superspeedway Media Relations)
For the first time in 11 years, Talladega Superspeedway is Dale-adega once again.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. maintained the lead over the final 27 laps Sunday to win the GEICO 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. It is his sixth career NACAR Sprint Cup victory at Talladega Superspeedway – tying him with Jeff Gordon for the most among active drivers – but his first since 2004.
Fans in the packed Talladega grandstands stood and cheered on Earnhardt throughout the closing laps, creating a sea of noise that only escalated once he took the checkered flag. This overwhelming level of support actually dates to the 1980s and 1990s, when Dale Earnhardt Sr. became a Talladega fan favorite while winning a record 10 Sprint Cup races at the track.
As he emerged from his car in Victory Lane, a teary-eyed Earnhardt appeared overwhelmed by all the cheers from Junior Nation, as well as from the relief of finally breaking his lengthy winless streak at Talladega Superspeedway.
“It’s just real emotional. I haven’t won here in a long time,” Earnhardt said. “Everything is just so good for me right now in my personal life and my racing, the team I’m with. I don’t know why. I don’t feel like I deserve this. I just feel overcome with a lot of emotion.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve won here. We’ve run so good here, so to not win in so many races bothers you. This is a great day for a lot of people. I’m blessed, man. Everything is going so great.”
Two of Earnhardt’s teammates at Hendrick Motorsports – Gordon and Jimmie Johnson – said they witnessed a bit of extra determination on this day from Earnhardt, who led six times for a total of 67 laps.
“Dale Earnhardt Jr. was driving super-aggressive. You knew that he wanted to win this race badly,” Gordon said. “You certainly know all his fans are enjoying this show here. They love seeing Dale Earnhardt Jr. win this race.”
Johnson, who finished second, agreed. He said Earnhardt appeared particularly bold on those occasions when he drifted back into the pack and had to work his way through traffic to regain the lead.
“He was most aggressive in traffic,” Johnson said. “He was relentless with a run. He didn’t ever choose to push the car in front of him. Every time he had an opportunity to advance, he took it. He created lanes up through the middle, swapping back and forth, trying to find a way past the leader. I was like, wow, go get it.”
It was a performance that was vintage Earnhardt, both Junior and Senior. The elder Dale Earnhardt made his reputation with an aggressive driving style that was never more apparent than at Talladega Superspeedway. Those days were on Junior’s mind as he celebrated Sunday’s long-awaited victory.
“I feel like we have a lot of supporters here because of dad’s success. He won so many races here,” Earnhardt said. “And I love when we go to Victory Lane here, because I just feel like I add to his legacy. All I ever wanted to do was make him proud, and I feel like when we win at those tracks where he was successful like Talladega, then that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Richard Childress Racing’s Paul Menard finished third, followed by Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. Pole sitter Jeff Gordon, making his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in Talladega’s spring event, wound up 31st. There were six cautions for 23 laps and 27 lead changes among 15 drivers. Kevin Harvick, who finished eighth, continues to lead the standings over Truex, Johnson and Joey Logano. Earnhardt, Jr. moved up to fifth.
NASCAR racing will return to Talladega Superspeedway, Oct. 23-25, with the running of the Alabama 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race – the sixth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup - and the fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.