Earnhardt contends for title but falls
Chevy Monte Carlo
|Car No: 3
|Sponsor: GM Goodwrench Service Plus
For those who said Dale Earnhardt would never win an eighth NASCAR Winston Cup
championship, 2000 was almost the year that proved how wrong they are.
Earnhardt flashed that old championship form in 2000, as once again he was a contender for
the title. And while he did end up second, 265 points back of Bobby Labonte, Earnhardt was
again the man everyone was watching in the championship chase.
And as true to his nature, he was not happy about finishing second. "I'm frustrated
about letting the eighth championship slip away with the races we had trouble with or
didn't finish well in like Rockingham and Charlotte," he said. "Homestead and
Phoenix were tough races for us. We just didn't hit the mark."
And Earnhardt is quick to add, "to think that this is the only opportunity I'm going
to have to win that eighth championship, I don't. I feel like I've got several
opportunities, next year and the year after.
"You don't win championships every year. It's a tough thing to do. But we will be go
after it hard again in 2001, and I am confident we have the team to contend for several
years to come."
Earnhardt's title hopes really took a beating during the middle portion of the year. He
trailed Labonte by only 45 points following race No. 18 at Loudon. However, Earnhardt had
a dismal three-race stretch beginning with race No. 19 as he finished 25th at Pocono,
eighth at Indianapolis and 25th at Watkins Glen. Labonte, who won Indianapolis, outscored
Earnhardt by 172 points in those three races. And Earnhardt, as he noted, didn't finish as
strong as he needed to put any pressure on Labonte. Earnhardt had five finishes outside of
the top 10 in the last nine races of the season.
Still, it was a very good year for Earnhardt and the GM Goodwrench Service Plus team. He
won two races, finished second four times and was third four times.
"Our guys stepped up to the plate this year with pit stops and the way they
worked," says Earnhardt. "I'm really comfortable with the team the way it is. I
think we've got a team that's really focused on winning races and winning championships. I
can't believe the turnaround we've had at Richard's (Childress) organization.
"The 3 team is again a championship contender."
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
Dale Earnhardt has gone 37 races without a DNF. He and NASCAR Winston Cup champion Bobby
Labonte were the only drivers in the top-40 in the point standings that did not have a DNF
in 2000. ... In honor of Earnhardt joining the ownership group of the Piedmont Boll
Weevils minor-league baseball team, the team has changed its name to the Kannapolis (N.C.)
Intimidators. Earnhardt, Larry Hedrick and Bruton Smith have joined together to form
Carolina Baseball Inc. ... Earnhardt has finished in the top 10 in the point race 20
times, including 14 in the top five. He has finished in the top three 11 times. Since
1984, Earnhardt and Richard Childress Racing have only finished out of the top 10 one
time. That was in 1992 when Earnhardt fell to 12th. BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- Dale Earnhardt
has finished in the top 10 in the final NASCAR Winston Cup point standings for eight
consecutive years. He shares this record with Rusty Wallace.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"It's been a good year for Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Dale Earnhardt himself. To be a
competitive driver and win races in Winston Cup and contend for the championship, that's
what it is all about." -- Dale Earnhardt
NUTS AND BOLTS
Crew chief Kevin Hamlin believes the biggest thing that kept Dale Earnhardt from winning
an unprecedented eighth NASCAR Winston Cup championship was "what happened on Friday.
We just didn't do a good job of qualifying. Too many times Dale had to start in the back
while Bobby (Labonte) and the others were up front," noted Hamlin. "It is just
too hard to pass these days to give them that much of an edge when the race starts. We
just didn't do a good enough job of giving Dale a car he could qualify in the top
10." Earnhardt only qualified in the top 10 eight times in 2000.
Copyright © 2000 The Earnhardt Connection
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