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Earnhardt leads one lap, wins IROC race
'99 News
Mike Harris - AP

Dale Earnhardt proudly hoists his trophy from winning round two of IROC.

Talladega, Ala. (April 24, 1999)
Dale Earnhardt still knows how to win.

The seven-time Winston Cup champion, who bumped aside Mark Martin with a classic final turn move for a win earlier this season in Daytona, outfoxed fellow NASCAR star Rusty Wallace on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway for a victory in the second round of the 1999 International Race of Champions series.

That means two laps led and two wins so far in the four-race IROC season.

``It wasn't anybody's race until the end,'' Earnhardt said. ``We just wanted to be in a position to win and we were.''

Wallace, like Earnhardt a former IROC champion, came to Victory Lane to give the winner a bearhug.

``It was a heck of a race,'' he said. ``I thought I had it won, but he got me right there at the end. It was a great move on his part. He's the master of that stuff.''

Earnhardt, who gained his ninth IROC win and third on the 2.66-mile, high-banked Alabama oval, started last in the 12-car all-star race. But the 47-year-old, who has only one win in his last 100 Winston Cup races, quickly moved into contention.

He was second, behind four-time and defending IROC champion Martin, by the fifth lap. Earnhardt fell back as far as seventh in the race that had all of the drivers in identically prepared race cars.

Jeff Burton, another of the Winston Cup regulars in the field, was second in the fourth turn of lap 29 of the 38-lap event -- close behind Wallace and just ahead of CART's Adrian Fernandez and Earnhardt -- when his car suddenly slowed with an ignition problem.

The tightly-packed cars darted up and down the banking to avoid the slowing Burton and each other, with Earnhardt taking advantage to move right up behind the leader.

Martin moved up to third on the next lap and it stayed that way until the final turn of the race when both Earnhardt and Martin tried to overtake Wallace.

After feinting toward the bottom of the track, Earnhardt whipped his car right to the top of the banking, nearly scraping the concrete wall as he slingshot around Wallace and won by 0.075-seconds -- less than two car-lengths.

Martin followed Wallace across the finish line, followed by NASCAR's Jeff Gordon, the IRL's Kenny Brack and Fernandez.

Asked if he thought Earnhardt's move was a dangerous one, Martin -- who had the best view of it -- said, ``I don't think it was risky. It looked like the right move to me.''

Bobby Labonte, filling in for injured CART star Al Unser Jr., was seventh, trailed by defending Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever, CART points leader Greg Moore and Winston Cup star Dale Jarrett.

Burton was two laps off the pace and defending Busch Series champion Dale Earnhardt Jr., who went out after seven laps with a blown engine, was last.

The elder Earnhardt, who averaged 182.126 mph -- yellow flag laps don't count -- leads the standings with 42 points. Martin, who is going for his fourth consecutive title, is next with 35. Labonte follows with 27 points and Wallace has 26.

The IROC purse, which totals $760,000 and pays the champion $225,000, is based on series points.

The next race is June 11 at Michigan Speedway, with the finale Aug. 6 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.