It’s never an odd sight to see a few wrecks when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the half-mile at Martinsville Speedway, but you rarely expect Hendrick Motorsports’ top drivers to get caught up in them. That’s exactly what happened this past Sunday at the STP 500, though, with both Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. getting collected in minor mix-ups in a rough day for both drivers.
The turn of events for Hendrick was a surprise, as the team and Hendrick affiliated drivers have 19 victories between them, including eight each for Jeff Gordon and Johnson. Earnhardt’s problems began early on when he had a loose tire which sent him into the pits. Then his shifter broke on numerous occasions due to a bad vibration, relegating him to the pits again.
Earnhardt’s bad luck continued when he was caught up in a small pileup on lap 227. Casey Mears spun his car halfway through the corner, forcing the cars behind him to slow down. This created an accordion effect of cars hitting each other, with Earnhardt slamming into the back of Paul Menard’s No. 27 Chevrolet SS. This sent Jr. back to pit road once again before he rejoined the field 47 laps down and finished in 36th.
Johnson, who was one of the favorites to win, also got off to a rocky start in Martinsville. Earnhardt clipped the back of him on lap 9 while Brad Keselowski was making a pass, sending him into a spin. Later, Johnson was collected up in a crash which also involved Greg Biffle, Menard, Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano, and Aric Almirola, sending him into the pits for repairs. Similar to Earnhardt, he joined the race 32 laps down and finished one spot of ahead of his teammate in 35th.
Hendrick still managed to lock in two top ten finishes in Jeff Gordon and Danica Patrick, who turned up 9th and seventh, respectively. After the headache in Martinsville, both Earnhardt and Johnson will be happy to have next weekend off before the Sprint Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for the Duck Commander 500.