The Pennsylvania 500 marked the start of a long streak of 16 consecutive weekends
of Winston Cup racing that ends with the season finale in Atlanta. Dale Earnhardt
began the long streak with a promising performance. Not only did Earnhardt qualify
in the top-10 for the first time this season at a non-restrictor plate race, he also ran
up front all day and ended the race with a strong finish.
It was like old times for a crowd of 100,000 at Pocono International Raceway when
the seven-time Winston Cup champion flexed his muscle. The Intimidator continuously
charged to the front as he has so often done during a brilliant career in which he has won
Earnhardt ran in the top-10 throughout the day. He could easily close gaps
between himself and cars ahead of him, and passing came with ease.
Following an excellent pit stop, Earnhardt slipped by Jeff Gordon and Ward Burton to take
the lead. The pass rescued the audience from its state of boredom. The croud
was overcome with excitement every time Earnhardt returned to the front-straightaway in
Earnhardt's time in the lead ended after 14 exciting laps when Gordon overtook the
No. 3 machine. But the Intimidator wasn't done yet. The following lap going
into turn three, Dale bumped Gordon. Jeff slid up the track and Earnhardt followed.
As a result, Ward Burton, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton slipped by, leaving Dale and
Jeff in 4th and 5th positions.
"When I got into the 24 (Gordon) I got on the brakes and lost it myself,"
Earnhardt said. "It was lucky both of us didn't wreck."
Gordon didn't criticize Earnhardt, saying the big bump that nearly sent both into
the third-turn wall was simply the result of hard racing between two competitors with a
thirst for victory.
Late in the race, Chad Little supposedly ran into oil and checked up. Dale,
who was closely following Chad, accidentally bumped him as a result. Meanwhile Ward
Burton drove to the inside of Dale thinking that the No. 3 would wreck. However,
Dale didn't wreck. Not knowing Ward was there, Dale came back down the track and
pinched the nose of the No. 22, sending him and seven other cars into the wall.
Earnhardt was able to continue.
Despite having a fast car all day, Earnhardt was unable to pull off a finish to his
liking. Earnhardt cursed his fate, saying damage to his car prevented him from being
a factor to the end.
"We knocked the nose in on one of those jam-up
restarts," he said. "We were good there when we were leading the race, but it
really hurts us when we knocked in the nose."