Dale Earnhardt Jr. might be out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but he appears to be very much in the hunt for a win in Sunday's Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500.
Earnhardt, eliminated from title contention last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, paced the first of Saturday's two Sprint Cup Series practices at .526-mile Martinsville Speedway where he is the defending winner of the fall Sprint Cup race.
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The No. 88 Chevrolet of Earnhardt topped Saturday morning's 50-minute session at 96.998 mph, just a little better than second-place Martin Truex Jr. -- one of the eight remaining Chase drivers -- at 96.879.
Non-Chaser Ryan Newman was third, followed by red-hot Chase driver and Martinsville pole winner Joey Logano, as non-Chaser Denny Hamlin completed the top five.
The rest of the Chase drivers stacked up as follows: Kyle Busch (sixth), Kevin Harvick (13th), Kurt Busch (15th), Jeff Gordon (16th), Brad Keselowski (18th) and Carl Edwards (20th).
The practice was incident-free with two notable exceptions.
Tony Stewart's car slapped the Turn 1 wall late in the session, bringing out a red flag and leaving significant damage to the right and left rear of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy. With the damage too much to repair, the team rolled out a backup car for Saturday's final practice. As a result, Stewart will have to forego his 13th-place starting position.
Earlier, Kurt Busch suffered cosmetic damage to his bumper resulting from a tap from Jamie McMurray.
See the complete results by clicking here.