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Earnhardt on cusp of unique IROC feat
1999 News
Jim Utter, The Charlotte Observer

Indianapolis, Indiana (Aug. 5, 1999)
Dale Earnhardt is in a near-perfect position to win his third International Race of Champions title.

He needs only to finish ninth or better in the fourth and final installment on the series at 5 p.m. EDT Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to claim the 1999 championship. But he has the opportunity to do even more.

Should Earnhardt win Friday's IROC race, he would become the first driver in the 23-year history of the series to sweep all four races in the same season. Earnhardt won the first three races at Daytona, Talladega and Michigan. In all three events, the margin of victory was less than 0.100 of a second.

The closest win was when Earnhardt beat his son, defending NASCAR Grand National series champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 0.007 seconds. The total margin of victory from all three of his 1999 victories is 0.189 seconds.

``My attitude is it is mine to lose. Mark (Martin) has represented this series as its champion and I don't expect him to roll over and give it to me,'' Earnhardt said. ``He a tough competitor, I think we've seen his determination in the past couple of weeks and the valiant effort he has given while injured.

``Mark has to win the race for any chance to clinch the championship and I have to finish something like eighth with no bonus points. If I can stay out of trouble and finish I believe we'll have a good chance of winning the championship.''

Because of IROC's rules on reversing the finishing order of previous race, Indy Racing League driver Eddie Cheever Jr. will start from the pole in Friday's race. As the race winner at Michigan, Earnhardt Sr. will start last (12th).

``We've have had a big time in the IROC series this year,'' Earnhardt said. ``It isn't easy to win a race with 11 other champions racing against you. I've won all three this year, but it wasn't easy.

``In all the IROC races I've watched and have raced, I don't remember any closer finishes than what we've had in all three races this year.''

There will be plenty of drivers with winning experience on the track as six of the 12 have won at the 2.5-mile speedway: 1999 Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack; Cheever, 1998 Indy 500 winner; Martin, the 1998 IROC Indy winner; and Brickyard 400 winners Jeff Gordon (1994, 1998), Dale Jarrett (1996) and Earnhardt (1995).

``It will be fantastic to get back to Indianapolis again after our tremendous success there in May when we won the Indy 500,'' said Brack. ``It's going to be exciting to race stock cars there, especially in front of the best fans in the world.

``The NASCAR guys will, as always, be hard to beat in these types of cars but I hope knowing the track will bring me some extra speed to reach a podium finish.''