Chase, schmase. Martinsville Speedway is known for two things: delicious hot dogs and the grandfather clocks awarded to winners. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., has fond memories of passing his father's Martinsville clock in the hallway as a kid. Now he's got one of his own.
Martinsville Speedway is one of the oldest venues on the Sprint Cup schedule and one of the most old school. It's the shortest track on the calendar and fairly flat, devoid of the huge bankings that define most modern ovals.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was born into appreciating Martinsville's history. In an emotional post-race interview, where you could tell that Earnhardt, Jr., was struggling to contain his enthusiasm, he explained:
I've been coming here since the early 80s watchin' races here. Dad won several races here and brought home several clocks. I remember one in particular that sat at the front door, in the hall by the stairs. [We] had this little round rug right in that hallway that I'd race my little Matchbox cars on and listen to the race on the Motor Racing Network. That clock would ring on the hour.
I always wanted one, and I came close, I think, several times and had some good finishes here. Even with the Tony Senior, Tony Junior and the Bud days, we had some pretty quick cars here and several races where I think the car should've won, but the driver didn't. It all worked out.
I couldn't believe it. I still really can't believe it, 'cause I've wanted—those clocks seem so hard to get. This is so special and 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.
A late pass on Tony Stewart with four laps to go gave Dale Jr. the win, and he celebrated like a man who's finally achieved that wanted win after years and years of trying.
This is the 23rd victory for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., but clearly one of the most special. Earnhardt, Jr., failed to make the cut for this round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but that was the farthest thing from his mind when winning at this historic venue.
Is there a better way to celebrate than delicious smoky donut? I think not.
A longer, larger cut of this extraordinary donut gif can be found here.
Kudos to NASCAR's editing team for cutting to the top view so we could see the cloud of tire smoke as it grew.