Earnhardt looked strong in the opening laps of Saturday night's Exide 400 ...
until disaster struck. Earnhardt was moving up through the field from his 34th
starting spot when, on lap 35, Robert Pressley's car got nudged out of shape and he
slammed into the outside wall on the backstretch. He bounced off and hit Earnhardt
and Joe Nemechek, with Earnhardt's car winding up in flames at the entrance to Turn
3. Earnhardt climbed from his burning Chevrolet as the safety crew quickly
extinguished the flames that were raging from the right front.
"It really wasn't that hard of a lick," said Earnhardt, who had three
consecutive top-10 finishes entering the 400. "It hit the right front and
knocked the A-frame back in and knocked the fuel line off. That's where the big fire
After making somewhat extensive repairs in the garage area, the team returned to the track
to pick up every valuable point possible. Earnhardt eventually finished 38th, some
140 laps down.
Perhaps the biggest setback from the accident was that it involved one of the team's best
cars. This car was first used in New Hampshire two races ago after Dale's primary
car was damaged in an accident during practice. Earnhardt finished a strong ninth
with it. Then, the car was taken to Darlington where it ran to a strong fourth place
finish. This week the team decided to use it for the third straight race, hoping for
the third time to be a charm. Seeing their fortuitous car bruised and burned was not
their idea of a charm.