Earnhardt Battered Not Bruised

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His car wouldn't win any beauty competitions, but Sunday was still a beautiful day for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Junior drove his battered Budweiser Chevrolet home to a fourth-place finish in the DIRECTV 500 at Martinsville Speedway on a day that looked like it was over before it started.

Earnhardt, Jr. got caught up in a multi-car accident on lap one as the field raced through turn one at the half-mile bullring. The No. 8 suffered heavy damage to both the front grill and rear bumper, causing Earnhardt to pit several times for repairs.

But a funny thing happened after Earnhardt, Jr. restarted the race in 40th position. His car, although battered, actually drove better.

"We bounced off a lot of things, and it just continued to drive great," Earnhardt, Jr. said. "My crew, to be able to cut everything off the car and get it back on the race track without getting lapped. That's just a great job by them."

Slowly but surely, Earnhardt, Jr. began passing cars and moving toward the front. But there was another challenge to be confronted.

While running fourth on lap 318, Earnhardt, Jr. made contact and spun with the left front fender hitting the inside wall.

He made two trips down pit road for repair and still managed to stay on the lead lap, taking the green flag on the restart in 17th position.

Again, the car handled even better and by the end of the 500-lap grind, Earnhardt, Jr. had a top-five finish with one of the most unlikely fourth-place finishes of his career.

"I couldn't hurt it," Earnhardt said. "We bounced off a lot of things and it just continued to drive great, the wheels were still straight and going in the right direction."

"We had to work hard all day," Earnhardt, Jr. said. "That's probably the hardest we've had to work as a team throughout 500 laps. I’m so proud of my team right now."

The win enabled Earnhardt, Jr. to hold on to the sixth spot in the point standings and he crawled within 109 points of leader Jimmie Johnson.

"I was real happy we were able to get back up to the top five for a great finish and a good points day for us," Earnhardt, Jr. said

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