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1999 Cracker Barrel 500

Race: Cracker Barrel 500 (Race No. 4)
Date: March 14, 1999
Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Qualified: 33rd
Finished: 40th
Status: Handling
Laps Completed: 151 of 325
Points Pos. Before/After Race: 12/18
Points Earned: 43
Money Earned: $41,625


Earnhardt finishes 40th in Atlanta 
Mar. 14
Dale Earnhardt's day had barely even started in the Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta before he was already out of contention to win.  On lap 23 going into turn 3 Earnhardt steered to the outside of a car attempting to overtake it, when he suddenly lost control and spun.  The No. 3 Chevrolet made heavy contact with the wall before sliding down the track in front of a mass of speeding cars and coming to a stop on the apron.  No other cars were involved in the wreck and Earnhardt was able to climb from his severely battered car and walk to an ambulance on his own power.

"It got out from under me," said Earnhardt after checking out of the infield care center. "I don't know, it was just one of those things. The car was driving too good to get loose. I don't think it got loose. It was just a bad time for us.

A possible reason for the accident is that the upper groove had not been worked in yet.  The race was delayed by rain and the grooves can need time to be worked in.  A similar incident to this happened just two races ago in Rockingham where Earnhardt went high up the track in turn one and lost control, ending his day early with severe car damage.

Earnhardt had struggled to find speed during practice until getting some help from the other RCR team: the Lowe's Chevrolet driven by Mike Skinner.  Starting the race, Dale had a setup almost identical to the one on Skinner's car.  Earnhardt had been moving up through the field and was in the top-25 from his 33rd starting spot when the accident occurred.

"We fought the car all week long and we changed the setup and had stuff under it like (Mike) Skinner's got on his car. The car was driving great. I was making progress on the track. I don't know what happened. It just got loose getting in Turn 3 and I don't know why. The car had been perfect up until then."

Later in the race Earnhardt returned to the track with repairs made to his battered car.  The extra laps he completed by returning to the track enabled him to gain a few positions and nearly a dozen points that he would not have gained had he not returned to the track.   At the end of the day, Dale finished 40th, completing 151 of 325 laps.

Earnhardt to start 33rd in Atlanta  Mar. 13
Dale Earnhardt will start tomorrow's Cracker Barrel 500 from 33rd position.  Earnhardt placed 30th in first-round qualifying with a lap of 190.811 mph on Friday but lost 3 positions when three cars posted better speeds than his during second-round qualifying today (Saturday).  In practice on Friday Earnhardt also struggled, running only the 31st fastest speed during the opening practice session and the 38th quickest speed during the second session.  Teammate Mike Skinner was second quickest in both the opening practice session and in qualifying on Friday.

Earnhardt veers to Atlanta  Mar. 11
The Winston Cup series makes its fourth return to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend since the track was redesigned in mid-1997.   Dale Earnhardt holds one of the most impressive records at the track, although he has had trouble finding success under the new 1997 track layout.  In the 90's Earnhardt has recorded only four finishes worse than 12th at Atlanta, with three of those four worst finishes occurring under the track's new design.

In the 90's his average finish is 7.5 with 10 top-5 finishes.
  The farthest back a driver has started and won the race was in 1980 when Earnhardt captured the victory from the 31st starting position.

Practice at the track begins Friday morning with first-round qualifying later that afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET.  Practice continues Saturday and second-round qualifying begins at 11 a.m. ET that morning.  The race begins Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, televised by ABC.  Check with TEC for updates throughout the weekend!


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