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Goody's Headache Powder 500


Goody's Headache Powder 500

Race: Goody's Headache Powder 500
Date: April 20, 1998
Track: Martinsville Speedway
Qualified: 31st
Finished: 4th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 500 of 500
Points Earned: 165
Money Earned: $49,475
Summary:

Earnhardt's qualifying problems that started after the Daytona 500 (where he qualified fourth, and won) continued at Martinsville.  He qualified only 31st during qualifying.  That carried the added burden of having to pit on the backstretch, a sure-fire way not to make it into the top 10.

"My qualifying effort, I've got to get on top of it," said Earnhardt.  "These boys are working their guts out at the shop.  They're going all they can go.   Talladega is one thing, but Texas and the short tracks, I've got to get on the ball and figure out what's going on and get qualified better.  If you start up front, you can finish up front a lot easier."

But despite his poor qualifying effort, he did finish up front.  He trailed Bobby Hamilton, Ted Musgrave, and Dale Jarrett to the checkered flag.  His car was good enough to deserve the fourth place, whether the driver felt he did or not.

"We had a good race car," Earnhardt noted.   "The guys worked hard.  I can't say enough about the effort everybody put in.  But that No. 4 car (Bobby Hamilton) was awesome today."

Admittedly, the race played into his favor.  The last 80 laps were run under green-flag conditions, meaning that he would not have to loose any spots with a late pit stop under yellow.  And he gave it all he had.

Earnhardt started 13th on the final 80-lap green flag run and moved steadily, if not easily, through the field.

"Lapped cars were terrible today," he said.   "If you get on the outside of somebody and they don't want you to, you don't get by them.  (But) we got four tires on that last pit stop, adjusted some air pressure, and took off."

The seven-time champion hadn't led a race since the PrimeStar 500 in Atlanta, four races ago.

The crowd roared when he passed Jeff Gordon in the first turn on lap 474.  It wasn't for the lead; it was for seventh place at the time.  But it was a big-time moral victory for Earnhardt, and it was a huge lift for Earnhardt fans as well.

Dale had the second-best Chevrolet of the day.  Winner Hamilton's entry was in a class by itself.

"I wouldn't have really given us a chance for a top five today," Earnhardt said.  "We just tried to stay consistent with our brakes and everything and save a little bit for there at the end."

The finish was Earnhardt's best since his extremely popular Daytona 500 victory.  It was also the first finish he had in the lead lap since the Las Vegas 400.

He knew he didn't have enough time to catch Hamilton nor the two Fords ahead of him, but he did have enough time, barely, to work on Randy LaJoie, who was subbing for the injured Ricky Craven in the No. 50 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

"I was just driving, trying to get around LaJoie there at the end," he said, recalling the pass that came on the race's final lap.   "We were having a lot of fun."

"I had the brakes and I had a car that would go," he said.  "We just kept knocking them off."

1998 The Earnhardt Connection