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Earnhardt not ready to follow Waltrip into retirement
1999 News
Steve Herman, AP Sports Writer

Indianapolis, Indiana (Aug. 5, 1999)
In a way, Dale Earnhardt already has started his farewell tour. Unlike Darrell Waltrip, he's not sure when it will end.

``I don't want to even come to the day that I have to get out of the race car and not get back in,'' the 47-year-old, seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion said. ``I don't know that I want to be there. It's not going to be a fun day.''

Waltrip, 52, a three-time champion and the winningest active driver with 84 career victories, plans to retire after the 2000 season.

``To see a guy like that go through his career and win championships and have a great career and know when to quit ... I respect him for that,'' Earnhardt said Wednesday, a day before today's start of practice and qualifications for the Brickyard 400 on Saturday.

Earnhardt said he expects to sign another contract with Childress Racing that could keep him behind the wheel through 2003.

In the meantime, he's having too much fun to even think about retiring.

``The racing, the time around the track, the garage area, it's great,'' Earnhardt said. ``I've learned how to get through those times (not winning) because I know I can still win. Tomorrow's another day, another race, and I've got that opportunity to win. I'm just excited to see what's around the corner.''

What he hopes eventually to see is Winston Cup stardom for his son, Dale Jr., the NASCAR Busch Series champion in his first full season last year. The younger Earnhardt also is competing against his father in this year's International Race of Champions series, losing to his father by just .007 seconds in the last race at Michigan in June.

Dale Sr. also won two earlier IROC races this year and could become the first driver to sweep the series since it began in 1973.

``It's unique to race in IROC. To win is also great,'' said the elder Earnhardt, the 1990 and 1995 IROC champion. `` To come in and win three races already this year and maybe set a record by winning four is pretty unique. But guys like Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace and these guys are not wanting that to happen. Then my kid's in there, aggravating the hell out of me.''

Others in IROC this year are Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton from NASCAR; Eddie Cheever and 1999 Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack from the Indy Racing League; and Adrian Fernandez and Greg Moore from Championship Auto Racing Teams. All drivers are in identically prepared IROC cars.

Moore, the 1995 Indy Lights champion and fifth in the CART series last season, hit the second-turn wall early in Wednesday's IROC practice. He was not hurt.

Gordon, who turned 28 on Wednesday, became the first two-time Brickyard winner last year and is just ahead of Earnhardt in sixth place in the Winston Cup standings. Jarrett, who has won three races, is in first place, 254 points ahead of Martin.

Saturday's race on the 2 1/2-mile, low-banked Speedway oval is the 20th of the 34 Winston Cup races this season.

``This race track is a track that anything can happen at,'' Earnhardt said. ``Guys had trouble here and lost races, guys had great pit stops and won races, like we did in '95. And gas mileage has won races, like Ricky Rudd (in 1997). Strategy plays out at the end. ... It could come down to that one last stop and whether you take tires or not, whether you just take a little gas or what.''

Earnhardt showed up at the Speedway with a clean-shaven upper lip for the first time in 17 years. His trademark mustache was gone, a sacrifice to his determination not to be beaten -- at anything.

``Michael (Waltrip) made me shave it off,'' Earnhardt said. ``We were down in the Bahamas on Saturday, snorkeling, and he was getting down deeper than I was. I was drowning.''

The bushy lip, it turned out, prevented a tight seal between his mask and his face. The situation was unacceptable.

``I had to do something to get down there with him. I had to shave so I could get deeper.''

The last time Earnhardt shaved his mustache was 1982.

``I don't think it'll affect any of my racing skills,'' he said. ``It didn't in '82, anyway. We still won races.''

But he's not taking any chances.

``It's growing back as we speak,'' Earnhardt said.