After finishing 21st at Michigan this afternoon, one thing was clear. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was not happy about being driven into the wall coming out of turn two by teammate Mark Martin.
"I got on the outside of Mark and he just come up and drove us into the fence off the corner. I don't know if his spotter wasn't spotting good or he just couldn't see good or what? Just ran us flat into the wall. I don't know how else to explain it," Earnhardt Jr. said.
Earnhardt Jr. soon blew his right front tire as a result of the contact with, causing a caution and blowing a likely top-fifteen run.
When Martin was asked about the incident he said: "He got up on the outside of me coming off the corner and I squeezed him. It was an accident. We had an accident."
Martin did not specify whether he was warned or not about Earnhardt Jr.'s run out of turn two, but was clear in his defense that it was only a racing-related incident.
One thing that has been well documented over the years is Martin's generally calm demeanor. Martin does not carry a reputation as a reckless or "careless" driver.
He certainly does not have the reputation of obstructing a teammate's progress. One could easily speculate that the lash at Martin was only made because the driver who suffered from the events last name is "Earnhardt."
Earnhardt Jr. and Martin have not had any prior incidents to suggest the intention to create conflict. After the race, Martin said he was confident he and Dale Jr. could work it out.
Although Earnhardt Jr. went on to finish outside the top twenty for just the second time this year, he was able to maintain his third-place points position. Martin wound up finishing ninth, leaving him 14th in the Sprint Cup point standings.
Earnhardt Jr. was surely aiming for a good finish today after Jimmie Johnson developed problems early on. That could have potentially led to him overtaking Johnson for second in the point standings.
And with a road course race next weekend at Sonoma, where Earnhardt Jr. has never been particularly good, it would have been productive to build on his points' lead.
The disappointing finish at Michigan will most likely result in Earnhardt taking a 109-race losing streak into Daytona, where teammates can make the difference in winning and losing. Though Earnhardt will almost certainly seek to work with Johnson in Daytona, one would certainly hope that Martin and Earnhardt will have mended bridges by then.
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