Dale Earnhardt Jr. has driven in 465 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races over a 14-year period. So when he was asked recently to pick the one race in which he had to "Defy the Odds" to get a good finish, he was momentarily stumped.
"It's kind of like if somebody asks you what your favorite song is," he said. "Probably about 10 of them pop into your head."
But two races in particular stuck out to Earnhardt Jr.: The 2006 spring race at Martinsville and the 2003 spring race at Talladega.
Both involved being caught up in an early wreck and overcoming it for a good finish (or in the case of Talladega, a really good finish).
Let's start with Martinsville. Earnhardt Jr. had started 29th when this happened on the second lap:
As you can see, the damage to the front of Earnhardt Jr.'s car was pretty significant. He required several pit stops to make repairs and figured he might be done for the day.
"I felt like at the start of the race we had a car fast enough to win, and after that wreck, (we were going to) ride around and salvage a spot at the back of the field somewhere," he said. "But we ended up really competitive."
Somehow, Earnhardt Jr. finished fifth with a car he said was "pretty much destroyed."
"That run inspired the team," he said. "You could tell after the race everybody was really pumped up, and that emotion kind of carries over to the next weekend."
Earnhardt Jr. said his other "Defy the Odds" race came during his record streak of four consecutive wins at Talladega – and longtime fans will all remember which one he's talking about.
In the 2003 Talladega spring race, Earnhardt Jr. had to start in the back due to an engine change. It turned out to be somewhat of a good thing, because this happened in front of him on lap 4:
Ryan Newman had his right rear tire go flat entering the turn, and it caused a huge pile-up. Earnhardt Jr. ran into the car in front of him and got some nose damage, but it wasn't as bad as it would have been if he'd been in the middle of the pack.
Still, it took a lot of time to fix it.
"We had 17 pit stops in addition to the regular four-tires-and-fuel stops," he said. "By the end of it, the whole front of the nose was taped up black."
At one point, Earnhardt Jr. had completely lost the draft but was able to eventually catch back up – and win his fourth straight Talladega race. Of course, there was one other element to his victory people always seem to remember.
"I think that was the race where we passed Jimmie and Kenseth below the line in Turn 3," he said.
It was. Here's the finish to see for yourself: