|Race: California 500
|Date: May 3, 1998
|Track: California Speedway
|Laps Completed: 205 of 334
|Points Earned: 58
|Money Earned: $55,700
Ever since suffering second-degree burns in the April 26 DieHard 500 at Talladega
Superspeedway, Dale Earnhardt has faced one obstacle after another.
First it was the pain from the burns on the left side of his face and neck.
Second, it was having to take the past champion's provisional, the last starting spot in
the 43-car field, for the California 500.
Then, it was a multicar accident on lap 86 of the 250-lap race on the two-mile California
Each time Earnhardt fought back, and following the accident that also involved Mike
Dillon, Kyle Petty, and Bill Elliott, his team made repairs to the rear of his Chevrolet
without losing a lap during the second caution period.
By the end of the sixth yellow flag, on lap 235, the tenacity of Earnhardt and Co. had
On the race's restart, Earnhardt sat eighth. A lap later, he actually found himself
racing his own car owner - with Darrell Waltrip driving - for seventh. Waltrip came
out ahead, and then Earnhardt became embroiled in a side-by-side duel with Jeff
Gordon. Earnhardt initially won the battle, but as the race progressed, Gordon
became stronger and advanced to fourth while Earnhardt had to settle for ninth.
Still, the seven-time Winston Cup champion was happy with his forth top-10 finish this
season and his move from ninth to seventh in the Winston Cup point standings.
"Our guys worked hard today, and the team did a great job getting us back out there
to get a ninth-place finish," said Earnhardt, who wore a protective cover over his
"We never gave up and that's the way you've got to be. I guess finishing ninth
after starting 43rd isn't too bad. We didn't have any luck, but you've got to make
your own luck. These guys just keep digging.
"We'll just keep working hard and take a few days off before going to
Charlotte. We'll be ready when it's time to race again."
On lap 86, it appeared that Earnhardt's misfortune of a week earlier at Talladega was
continuing. The engine in Dale Jarrett's Ford blew and dumped oil in turn one.
Elliott's Ford hit the wall head-on. The impact was so hard that Elliott's Ford
teetered on two wheels before coming to a rest in the middle of the track with fire
billowing from the car's engine compartment. While Elliott and Petty were crashing,
Earnhardt's car hit the fluid and slid sideways, with the rear of his Chevrolet clipping
the left front quarter panel of teammate Dillon's car. Dillon was filling in for an
aching Mike Skinner in the Lowe's No. 31 Chevrolet.
The race was stopped for 26 minutes and 33 seconds while the track was cleared. It
was the fourth time in the last four races NASCAR has had to red-flag a race for an
Elliott was flown by helicopter to Loma Linda Medical Center for X-rays. He was
later released with a minor fracture in his left hand and one in his left foot. A
week earlier, the Georgia driver suffered a bruised sternum in a horrendous 20-car crash
at Talladega, which also involved Earnhardt.
"I hated to see Elliott have his problems today," said Earnhardt. "I
know he didn't need that."
© 1998 Unimount Enterprises