ready to chase 8th title
(December 9, 1998)
Seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt
said he's not too old or experienced to have learned a valuable lesson in the 1998 season.
Earnhardt said Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon's performance, which included a
NASCAR modern era record-tying 13 victories, 26 Top fives and 28 Top 10s, was an
Eanrhardt, who picked up his first career Daytona 500 victory to start the 1998
season, struggled much of the year but did manage to finish a respectable eighth in the
season's final points standings.
``(Gordon's performance) showed us we really needed to go out and focus on what's
going on and make it happen for us,'' said Earnhardt, 47. ``We know what we need to do and
that's work harder on aerodynamics and things like that. We're putting things in place to
do that -- (team owner) Richard Childress, myself and Andy Petree Racing.
``There's a lot of things going on that I think are going to help us for 1999.
Hopefully, we'll get the new (Monte Carlo) in May or so. There are a lot of exciting
things that happened this season and there are a lot of exciting things that will happen
``I'm still looking forward to winning another championship.''
Earnhardt said there are many areas in which his team can improve over 1998, but
the most important is finding the consistency of running up front -- a trademark of
Eanrhardt during his seven championship seasons.
``We have got to be in the top five every race. You got to be a contender almost
every race,'' he said. ``You can't unload off that truck and finish in the top 10 or in
the top 15. You've got to have those top five finishes and wins. You've got to do it
consistently to make it happen.
``I think I'm in good shape. I think (Richard) Childress is in good shape. We want
to win. Getting to New York is one thing (for the annual Winston Cup Awards Banquet), but
getting up there on the front table is another. We want to be there.''
If Gordon's standard isn't inspiration enough for Earnhardt, he will add a little
family rivalry next season, at least in five races when his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr. --
NASCAR's 1998 Grand National champion -- runs a limited Winston Cup scheduled in 1999
before his full-time move to the series in 2000.
``Coming into Winston Cup this year for a few races, I'm excited about (Dale
Earnhardt) Jr. racing. He's going to have to settle for second though, because his dad is
going to work hard to be the car he needs to beat,'' Earnhardt Sr. said. ``You know Jeff
Gordon pushed the mark up higher and I congratulate him on his championship year. He
pushed us to work harder and he's pushed his competition to work harder.
``That's the trademark of a champion.''
Earnhardt has been an ambassador of sorts for NASCAR -- he and Earnhardt Jr. raced
in this season's exhibition race in Japan, Earnhardt Sr. addressed the National Press Club
in Washington and he also played a small role in a comedy movie.
``It gets busy. It can be very taxing at times. But still, it's a very enjoyable
thing to be a NASCAR champion or a driver who is recognized all over,'' said Eanrhardt.
``I enjoy going to a lot of different countries and stuff. I was in France this past year
and a lot of people knew me.
``NASCAR is truly worldwide now it's not just the United States.''