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Dale Earnhardt Jr. Shocks Fans at Martinsville

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IOctober 25, 2010

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 24:  Fans in the grandstand wave the Green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2010 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
John Harrelson/Getty Images

In a sight seldom seen during the past two years, fans stood and screamed waving flags passed out by the race sponsor as Dale Earnhardt Jr. did the unimaginable by taking the lead, passing Jeff Gordon on lap 285 of the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville.

He led 90 laps and his team, led by crew chief Lance McGrew, gave him pit stops as fast as 11.7 seconds.  Unfortunately an adjustment to the car went the wrong way and Dale Jr. radioed his team to put it back to where it was.

The car just never was quite as good again, but he managed to pretty much stay in the top-10 as the race played out.  Even that was a sight to please Junior Nation, though experience has taught his followers not to think he is getting back in race form because of performance that may just be an anomaly.

Yet for a while there was reason to hope.  Maybe karma was at play with Earnhardt Jr. having gone 88 races without a win and driving the No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet. It would have been very cool, but it was not to be.

Earnhardt Jr. said, "I love short track racing and love coming here."  It was the style of racing he prefers that is a bit old school.

His car was strong until it just was too tight and they just seemed unable to overcome the problem.  Yet, for a change he didn't fade to the back as so often has been the case.

Earnhardt Jr. showed he has the will to drive hard and go for a win.  He gave his fans a thrill and a hope that maybe this will carry over to Talladega where he should do well if they can get a good setup on the car.

He finished seventh in the race and remains 19th in the point standings.

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