MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. was amped up. Literally.
From the start of Sunday's race, when he was involved in the first of 18 cautions on the eighth lap, until the end, he when his battered car finished seventh, he had a blast.
``I was doing OK and I was just kind of hanging out and then I drank a couple of AMPs before the race started and probably was a little bit too excited,'' he said. ``That was the first 100 laps and I calmed down after a while but that first 100 laps it was just ... it was fun.''
With only three races left in the season, Earnhardt offered no apologies, either.
``That right there was basically, hey, the season is running down and we are not going to be racing much longer and I am going to miss it so I came to the buffet and got everything I could eat,'' he said. The most popular driver in the series has not gone 126 races without winning.
The possibility of ticking people off never entered his head, he said.
``I mean everybody that I think I ran over even got me back accidentally in one shape or form today,'' he said. ``I don't know if they think we are all even, but I ain't really worried about it. If they want to come at me, come at me. But I had fun today and this is short track racing and we don't do as much short track racing anymore, so when you see this kind of thing, you are like `Whoa! What's going on?' because we run on these mile-and-a-halfs and you don't see that kind of crap. And if we ran on these things more often this would kind of be more acceptable.''
The big winner after 18 cautions and 108 caution laps, both season highs?
``I think this was a great day for NASCAR and I think this kind of racing is exciting and people really yearn to see that style of racing, not all the time obviously, but a little more often that what we have,'' he said. ``Please, build some more short tracks, we need some more short tracks. All these 1.5 mile tracks. I know you can get more seats or whatever but they just don't really turn everybody on, you know? So I think this was a good day for NASCAR.''
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EARLY SIGNS OF MAYHEM: Jimmie Johnson knew he was in for a long day.
``Oh, yeah. From lap one or two I could just tell it was going to be one of those days,'' he said, because of all the beating and banging, and the first caution on the eighth lap.
Johnson weathered it almost unscathed for most of the day, but when a final caution caused a restart with three laps to go, couldn't hold his lead over Tony Stewart on fresher tires.
The day was a good one for A.J. Allmendinger, who led twice for 19 laps and finished 11th.
``It was unbelievable. It was insane,'' he said of the physicality on the track. ``That's the way NASCAR is now. Everybody is desperate. We've got to fight for everything we can get out there. Sponsors, points, money, etc., so everybody is trying to get everything.''
He said the time and year and venue also contributed to the way the race went, too.
``It's the end of the year. It just seems like ... this year is tiring. Everybody is tired and you put that combination together at a place like Martinsville, things are gonna happen.''
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VICKERS ALERT: Brian Vickers was probably the least popular driver Sunday.
He spun three times before the race was 100 laps old, tangled with Matt Kenseth, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Jamie McMurray and drew criticism from Jimmie Johnson when it was all over.
McMurray was on the outside of Vickers when Vickers, who had already spun three times, hit the curb and clipped him in Turn 3, sending him sliding backwards and hard in the outside wall.
The car was badly damaged, and when Vickers came back around, McMurray tried to turn into his back bumper, missed and hit the wall again. He then parked the car, his day finished.
McMurray said he was trying to block Vickers, but realized he couldn't.
``I moved back up the track and I just feel like he let off the brake and went ahead and sent me for a ride,'' he said, describing the contact as ``a cheap shot. I just didn't appreciate it.''
Vickers' spin on lap 493 brought out the last caution, and might have cost Johnson the win.
``The last three or four (cautions) seemed to be the same cars over and over and I just wish that wasn't the case,'' Johnson said. ``We would have been just fine.''
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END QUOTE: ``When things get tough, you have to watch out for that guy, and he really put one on them.'' - Jeff Gordon on Tony Stewart, and his winning pass of Johnson with three laps to go.

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