The Earnhardt Connection - Race Reports

Race Report for:
GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400
The Earnhardt Connection

Race: GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400
Date: February 22, 1998
Track: North Carolina Motor Speedway
Qualified: 37th
Finished: 17th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 392 of 393
Points Earned: 117
Money Earned: $32,100
Stories: Dale entered Rockingham with his head in the clouds. Not only had he just won the Daytona 500, but he was on top of the points for the first time since mid-season of 1996.

Dale started the race deep in the field. His poor qualifying position might have been a result of his busy week and constant media coverage. Following the green flag, Dale steadily moved up through the field , working his way to 24th place by lap 38. Dale stayed between 16th and 25th place for most of the day.

Car with fresh tires was around 8 M.P.H. faster than a cars with worn tires. It was faster to make a pit stop and get fresh tires than it was to stay out on the track with worn tires. This made for a busy pit road all day long. Speaking of the pits, Earnhardt's pit stops were nothing less than a disgrace. The crew managed only 22 second pit stops all day. Furthermore, Dale's pit stall was located on the back straightway. This caused Dale to loose positions every time that he made a pit stop under yellow flag conditions.

More often than not, the Ford Taurus occupied the top-5 positions on the track. By the end of the day, 312 of the race's 393 laps were led by a Taurus. Dale had stated earlier this year that the Taurus would have the advantage. He feels that the Chevrolets need more downforce.

At one point in the race, Mayfield attempted to put Earnhardt one lap down. That allowed Gordon to catch up to Mayfield. Gordon was able to pass Mayfield in the second turn with 68 laps remaining. After Gordon was able to get past Earnhardt on lap 330, Mayfield dropped behind Gordon by five car lengths. The battle between Earnhardt and Mayfield became heated. First, Mayfield lapped Earnhardt to get by but Earnhardt returned the favor when he tagged Mayfield in the rear in the third turn, nearly sending the second-place car out of control.

On lap 365, Ernie Irvan got sideways, collecting Steve Park, Michael Waltrip, Jeremy Mayfield, Bobby Labonte, Mike Skinner, and Dale Earnhardt. Dale got involved when Skinner bounced off the wall, hitting the right side of Earnhardt's Chevrolet. The wreck completed Earnhardt's mediocre day.

Through all of this, Dale still managed to finish the race in 17th spot. The series will next head to Nevada for the inaugural Las Vegas 400. Earnhardt is currently 2nd in points, 33 behind leader Rusty Wallace.
Post-Race Quotes: "You can't say much when that 24 car wins the race. Our car pushed getting in the corners and pushed coming off today. Give me some more spoiler and give me some more front end. They're going to do what they want to do, but I don't imagine we're going to get much with that 24 in Victory Lane. He won and had six Fords behind him. We'll just have to keep digging and hope we get a little help." - Dale Earnhardt
Related Articles: Results: GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400

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