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Hindsight 20/20 for Earnhardt
'99 News
Brett Borden, NOL

Richmond, Va. (Sept. 8, 1999)
d13.jpg (3832 bytes)The last time Dale Earnhardt missed a race, Richard Petty was on his way to his seventh NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship. Earnhardt, who has also won seven, had yet to win his first. ESPN was just getting going on the cable systems across the country, and Earnhardt was just getting going on its NASCAR Winston Cup Series tracks.

It was Sept. 9, 1979, at Richmond Fairgrounds, when Earnhardt, driving for Rod Osterlund in a Mike Curb Productions-sponsored entry, started what has been a 20-year ride without any stops. Earnhardt has started races with a broken sternum, broken shoulder blade, broken ribs -- he's caught a lot of breaks, good and bad, and still he got in that race car.

"That was a good week," said Earnhardt, driver of the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet. "I started 20 years without missing a race and ESPN started broadcasting on the air waves. I don't think either one of us thought we'd last this long."

In his first 34 series starts at Richmond, Earnhardt finished in the top-10 an amazing 29 times. He then missed the top-10 in his next six starts there before getting back in the groove with an eighth-place finish last June.

"We've been disappointed with our performance at Richmond the last couple of years," Earnhardt said. "We ran very well for so many years at Richmond and then it seems the last couple we couldn't do anything right. It felt good to finish in the top-10 in June and I'm looking for a top-5 or even one better, a win this weekend."

We all know what happened the last time the NASCAR Winston Cup Series went short-track racing on a Saturday night. Earnhardt grabbed his second victory of the year after last-lap contact with Terry Labonte. Like other creatures of the night, the Intimidator shifts into a different persona once the sky runs out of daylight.

"I enjoy Saturday night racing," Earnhardt said. "The atmosphere seems to change once the sun goes down and the race fans get to watch a good show."