Dale Earnhardt looked headed toward another mediocre
finish right from the outset of today's UAW-GM Quality 500. The weather was
drastically different from what it was during Saturday's practice, and Dale's car was
evidently hurt by it.
Then things seemed to turn around for Dale. As he was about to be lapped by
race leader Mark Martin, the third caution came out for a wreck involving David Green in
the No. 41 Kodiak Chevrolet. Earnhardt was saved from being lapped and was able to
pit with the leaders, coming out of the pits in the top-15 after an excellent stop.
The weather turned warmer and Earnhardt's car began to come to him. The team's next
pit stop was even better than their first one. Earnhardt exited the pits in 6th
position, ahead of even Mark Martin.
Then things took another turn. Just as Dale was anticipating a solid top-10
finish, disaster stuck. A huge 11-car accident started in turn one reportedly due to
oil on the track. Bobby Labonte and 10 other cars, including Earnhardt, contributed
to the race's attrition as they were collected in the Talladega-like wreck. Despite
moving down to the bottom of the race track Earnhardt still got involved.
"I was just trying to dive down and not hit anybody, and I just caught up in
it," said Earnhardt, who was running in the eighth position at the time of the
accident. "I got into Sterling and I think the (No.) 7 car. We were having a decent
run with the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo, but we were just in the wrong place
at the wrong time."
After making extensive repairs to the heavily damaged car, Earnhardt returned to
the track. He finished the race 56 laps down in 29th position. Earnhardt has
"struck-out" at Charlotte this year; he was involved in a wreck during each of
the three Winston Cup races at the track (including The Winston).
Pre-Race Report: Earnhardt to start 33rd in UAW-GM 500
Dale Earnhardt has a changed paint scheme
this week. Unfortunately his qualifying position was unchanged. Earnhardt will
start 33rd, the same position he started in last week. But Earnhardt isn't worried
about where he will start and he certainly isn't bothered by Gordon.
"I've finished second after starting 36th here," said Earnhardt, who
starts Sunday's race from the 33rd spot. "Gordon is ahead of me. I don't know what
he's doing different. Gordon is beating a lot of people. He's not just beating me. I've
got to catch up with the rest of them between me and Gordon. Then, I'll worry about
Earnhardt finished 39th in the Coca-Cola 600 at CMS in May, but finished third in
this race a year ago. The driver of the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet
has five career wins at Charlotte, but hasn't been to victory lane there since 1993.
The UAW-GM Quality 500 gets under way on Sunday at 1:05 p.m.