By Jim Utter
Tribune News Service
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- They say time heals all wounds.
If so, it only seems appropriate that many of Hendrick Motorsports' most significant NASCAR victories have been accompanied by a grandfather clock.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the most recent HMS driver to add one of the unique Ridgeway clocks to his trophy case with a victory at iconic Martinsville Speedway in Sunday's Goody's 500.
His win came on the 10th anniversary of the crash of a Hendrick team plane that was on its way to the Martinsville race. All 10 on board were killed, including the brother, son and two nieces of team owner Rick Hendrick.
Martinsville was the site of Hendrick's first win as an owner in the Sprint Cup Series in 1984, and in the 20 races held at the track since the tragedy, Hendrick drivers have won eight, including Earnhardt's win Sunday.
"He said in an interview, if he wants to even come to this race, he doesn't really know until he wakes up in the morning whether he's going to go," Earnhardt said of his owner. "So, when I saw him this morning, I was glad he came.
"I was so proud to be able to do that with my team and win this race on this challenging weekend for the company. I know it means a lot to them.
"They're very hurt, and it's a heavy heart that they carry all weekend, but they want to win the race."
The victory could not salvage Earnhardt's title hopes as he was eliminated from contention in NASCAR's new Chase format last week at Talladega, Ala., but he said it helped remind his No. 88 team of its potential this season.
"You don't have all these awesome years where you're piling up wins, just hitting homers every week. I think the older you get, you definitely come to appreciate how challenging it is," said Earnhardt, who won for the fourth time this season.