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1999 Daytona 500

Race: Daytona 500 (Race No. 1)
Date: February 14, 1999
Track: Daytona International Speedway
Qualified: 4th
Finished: 2nd
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 200 of 200
Points Pos. Before/After Race: 0/2
Points Earned: 170
Money Earned: $613,659


Earnhardt finishes 2nd in Daytona  Feb. 14
The No. 3 crew services Earnhardt's Chevrolet during the 500.Excitement was in the air leading up to the start of the the 41st annual Daytona 500 and a brand new season.  Earnhardt was fresh off his 10th straight Twin 125 win Thursday and an IROC win on Friday.  The car had been flawless all week in practice and Earnhardt was clearly a favorite to win.

In the race's opening laps Dale had a multi-lap side-by-side battle with Bobby Labonte for the race lead.   The weather was a lot cooler than it had been all week.  Cooler temperatures can tighten up a car, giving it a push.  This was the case for Earnhardt.  In addition to having a tight car, Earnhardt also developed ignition problems.  The ignition difficulties resulted in a loss of about 2000 RPM, which makes a big difference in racing, especially at Superspeedways.  Dale lost the draft twice, falling backward in the middle of a sandwich of two-wide cars.  During his first pit stop the crew made an adjustment to help loosen up the car.  Upon returning to the track Dale was far out of the lead in 21st position.

Despite the adjustment made during his pit stop, Dale had trouble moving back to the front of the field because of his ignition box and because he was in a draft with slower cars.  At the superspeedways a car is only as fast as the ones it is drafting with.

On lap 96 the first caution came out.  All cars on the lead lap pitted for the second time and Earnhardt, with his pit crew faster than many, was able to move up from 20th to 13th on pit road.  During the stop, Dale helped his ignition problem by changing ignition boxes.

Earnhardt fell back to 20th following the drop of the green flag.  But shortly after, the Intimidator began a charge toward the front of the pack at last!  He moved steadily through the field keeping his car along the white line that separates the apron from the racing surface.  Before long he was in third spot right behind the leader!

It was a good thing Dale charged to the front when he did ... just a lap later a major accident was triggered when Dale Jarrett bumped into his teammate, Kenny Irwin, sending Jarrett's car sliding out of control and triggering a 15+ car pile-up.  At the time of the wreck Jarrett was in sixth spot while Dale was in third.  Earnhardt's being up front saved him from being involved in the wreck.  The cars not involved in the wreck pitted under this third caution and Skinner came out first, Wallace second, Earnhardt again in third with Mayfield fourth!

Earnhardt's race was turning around. Many teams began to fear that they would not have enough gas to finish the event should the race remain under the green flag the rest of the way.  The fuel mileage question was silenced when the fourth caution came out for a single car wreck involving Bobby Hamilton.  Wallace and Mayfield didn't pit under the caution because they thought they had enough gas to finish -- the rest of the field pitted for tires and fuel.  Earnhardt came out third.

Earnhardt pushes Grodon into the lead.The remaining laps of the race were very exciting with major positions swapping in the top-10 and in the lead.  The final pass for the lead came when Earnhardt pushed Jeff Gordon past Rusty Wallace and Mike Skinner.  From there Gordon held off a furious charge by defending Daytona 500 champ Dale Earnhardt to win the first Winston Cup race of the 1999 season.  Earnhardt finished second followed by Kenny Irwin in third and teammate Mike Skinner in fourth.

"I'd have to say they got their money's worth today," Earnhardt said of the showdown between himself and Gordon.

"We had an ignition problem earlier on, the car wasn't running up to par, but it worked in the draft," clarified Dale.

"I couldn't really muster much on Jeff.  His car was stronger from the center to the corner and I just never could get to him. I never got a chance to get a bump on him. It just wasn't meant to be, I reckon."

Alongside his win Gordon also leads Earnhardt by 10 in the points.

"That is a dream come true for me to race Dale Earnhardt all the way down to the line in the Daytona 500," said Gordon.  "It does not get any better than that. I'm the last person who expected us to win out there today.

``I want to thank Dale for a great race. He's taught me a lot of things the last couple years. That's the only way I kept him behind me.''

It's Earnhardt again ... this time in IROC!  Feb. 12
Earnhardt is starting the 1999 season red hot!  Dale pulled on the outside of race leader Mark Martin out of the final turn of the final lap on Friday to win round one of International Race of Champions (IROC) at Daytona International Speedway.   The victory, Earnhardt's 33rd at Daytona, follows his win in the Twin's 125's on Thursday.

Earnhardt does it again!  Feb. 11
Dale Earnhardt won his qualifying race for the 10th straight year Thursday, taking the lead on the race's eighth lap and holding off a late charge by Jeremy Mayfield and Dale Jarrett.  With this win Earnhardt has now claimed a Twin 125 victory every year this decade!  Bobby Labonte bested Jeff Gordon to win the first qualifying race.  The races determined positions 3-30 in the Daytona 500 starting grid.  Dale Earnhardt will now start Sunday's race from fourth, while Bobby Labonte will start third.  Jeff Gordon and rookie Tony Stewart make up the front row.

Earnhardt qualifies 10th in Daytona  Feb. 6
Qualifying began Saturday and over 58 teams, including Earnhardt's, posted speeds in their qualifying trim.  Earnhardt, who was the 23rd car to qualify, posted a speed of 193.865 for 10th position overall.  Only the two fastest drivers secured starting spots for the 500 in Saturday's first round.  Those drivers were Jeff Gordon, who will sit on the pole, and Tony Stewart who will start second.  Drivers can stand on Saturday's speed or try to go faster on Monday and Tuesday in second- and third-round qualifying.  Typically only drivers who posted slow speeds will do this.  Once a driver elects to go again, his previous speed is wiped off the slate and the new speed becomes his official mark.

After time trials end Tuesday, the speeds will be used to set the lineups for Thursday's 125-mile qualifying races. Odd numbers -- first, third, fifth and so on -- go in the first race, even numbers in the second. Results from the 125s will set positions 3 through 30 for the 500.

The next six spots in the 500 field will go to the drivers with the six best qualifying speeds who have not yet made the field. The final seven spots go to provisional starters based on last season's car owner points standings.

One of the biggest gaps in Winston Cup racing falls between the second- and third-fastest qualifiers on Saturday. The second-fastest driver is assured of starting on the outside of the front row for the 500. The third-fastest, however, could start the main event as far back as 31st depending on how he does in his 125-miler.

Daytona Speedweeks has arrived!  Feb. 5
Daytona Speedweeks started Friday when Winston Cup teams practiced for the upcoming Daytona 500 and Bud Shootout.  Earnhardt posted the 19th quickest time in practice and remarked that he feels confident in his car for the Daytona 500, which will be held next Sunday, February 14.

First-round qualifying for the 500 was Saturday.  Dale was 10th quickest.  The rest of the starting positions for the 500 will be determined in the Twin 125's, which will be run on Thursday, February 11 at 12:30 p.m. EDT.

On Friday, February 12, Round One of the '99 IROC Series will be run.  The race will see the Earnhardts Sr. and Jr. compete for the first time on American asphalt.  The results will be available following the race, but the event will not be televised until a later date.

Earnhardt will attempt to defend his crown as Daytona 500 champ on Friday the 14th during the 41st ever Daytona 500.  The event starts at 12:15 p.m. EDT.  Stay connected to The Earnhardt Connection for further updates throughout Speedweeks!

Earnhardt talks to media  Feb. 5
NASCAR Online reports: Daytona 500 defending champion Dale Earnhardt talked to the media this morning about his experience last year and what he is looking forward to this year during Speedweeks, a two-week celebration of speed culminating with the Daytona 500.

You can listen in to what he had to say on a RealAudio broadcast of the news conference from Daytona International Speedway, site of the Feb. 14 race.  Listen in Real Audio.   Download Real Audio Free.


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