FORT WORTH, Texas — Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fans might not have liked it, but the driver himself has no issue with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson for passing him under caution at Martinsville.
Earnhardt said Thursday he would have done the same thing in the same situation.
Johnson was leading last Sunday when Earnhardt’s car spun out and brought out the caution. Johnson did try to slow down when his No. 48 got near where Earnhardt was, but eventually went around Earnhardt and put the No. 88 down a lap.
“He did actually try to slow down, and I think that he saw that I had two left-side flat tires and it was pretty pointless for him to wait,” Earnhardt said before a testing session at Texas Motor Speedway. “If he stopped at all, the guys behind him would have been able to pass him for that position. He couldn’t give up that opportunity or take that chance, or take that risk.”
Johnson went on to win the race with a career-high 346 laps led, moving up from third to take over the Sprint Cup points lead.
Earnhardt, who went into Martinsville as the points leader after finishing seventh or better in each of the first five races, finished 24th and two laps back.
“We shouldn’t have been back there in the first place and been in that position to be run over,” Earnhardt said. “But unfortunately it was just a bad day for us and it just seemed to get worse. But he wasn’t doing anything that he wasn’t supposed to be doing. The guy is leading the race, you know. He’s got to take care of what he’s doing. He’s got a race to win.”
While Earnhardt’s fans lashed out at Johnson on social media, Junior made it clear that he had no problems with his teammate.
“I would have done the same thing Jimmie did,” Earnhardt said. “I’m leading the race. I’ve got to think about my team and my car and what I’m trying to do. I don’t think he did it out of spite or anything like that. He just was driving his race.”