Race Reports The Earnhardt Connection

Also see

Results:


1999 Pepsi 400

Race: Pepsi 400 (Race No. 17)
Date: July 3, 1999
Track: Daytona International Speedway
Qualified: 10th
Finished: 2nd
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 160 of 160
Points Pos. Before/After Race: 7/7
Points Earned: 175 (including 5 bonus points)
Money Earned: $92,175

Summary:

Earnhardt second again at Daytona  July 3
Days before the Pepsi 400, there were two buzzwords that kept surfacing in the garage area.

Those words? Dale Earnhardt.

The seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion has had a long-lasting love affair with the 2.5-mile high banked speedway, and after his 1998 Daytona 500 victory, anything else was icing on the cake.

Earnhardt's GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet started the day 10th on the grid, and after some fierce early battles with Rusty Wallace, took the lead just 38 laps into the 160-lap event. Though he complained about his car being tight, his team made an air pressure adjustment and he wound up leading for 18 laps.

Earnhardt stayed in the top-5 throughout most of the day. On lap 144 the leaders made their final pit stops of the night. Jarrett and most other race leaders elected to stop for fuel only, while Earnhardt and Jeff Burton chose right-side tires.

After the pit stop, Earnhardt, followed by Burton, raced from 7th to 2nd. Then, with just three laps remaining, came the race's third caution.

After Jeremy Mayfield and Jimmy Spencer crashed to cause the yellow flag, there was no time left for Earnhardt to pass Dale Jarrett for the win. Jarrett went on to win the event over Earnhardt under the caution.

Earnhardt knew that he needed those two fresh tires during the final pit stop to at least move himself back into contention.

"We wouldn't have finished second (without new tires), that's all there is to it," Earnhardt said. "We were in pretty good shape with tires. I told the crew if they didn't put tires on we were going to be in the wall. It worked out in our favor. I think with just a few more laps we would have gotten by Jarrett. He might have run out of gas because he was close on gas. The caution really helped him. It helped me when we needed to catch up to everyone else. Then it played in Jarrett's favor at the end. This is Daytona. We finished second again."

Earnhardt was in position to challenge but was cut short by the caution. At the time, he didn't realize how close he really came to victory.

"I wasn't aware of Jarrett's problem, if he was going to run out of gas or be close," Earnhardt said. "I think if it had stayed green, we could've got Jarrett. It was a key to get those right side tires on the last stop. We just ran out of time. I think we could have run him down if we hadn't run out of time."

Jeff Burton started the event from 37th position, then used the draft -- and a very strong race car -- to work his way toward the front. Burton felt one car was the key to his good fortune and he was going to follow him through, no matter what.

"I was committed to Earnhardt," Burton said. "We both had two tires. The 88 (Jarrett) did not put on tires, so I was committed to go with the 3 car. The other thing was the 31 (Mike Skinner) was behind me and I really thought with as much press that's been going on with the 3 and 31 not working together on the speedway that, wherever the 3 would go the 31 would go. I would have driven straight off a cliff if that's where the 3 car would have gone. I was committed to going with him and that's what I would have done."

Wallace led 75 laps but finished 11th at the end. He simply got shuffled out in the final laps.

"I was sitting there running second and had a run on the leader and I looked up and I thought Dale (Earnhardt) would go with me and stayed up high and hung me out to dry," Wallace said. "I couldn't believe it. I thought of all the guys he'd help me. Then I went from second back to 11th because of that, but hey, that's racing."

Finishing fourth was Skinner, followed by Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Ward Burton, Bobby Hamilton, Ernie Irvan and Terry Labonte.

Earnhardt will start 10th under the lights  July 1
Dale Earnhardt didn't have the smoothest trip around the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, but the results were there.

Earnhardt, who last won a Bud Pole at Daytona in 1996, didn't grab the top spot, but managed to place the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet tenth on the grid for Saturday night's Pepsi 400 on a track that raced more like a supermarket parking lot, complete with speed bumps on Thursday night.

Earnhardt cranked his first lap on the high-banked tri-oval in 46.871 seconds at an average speed of 192.016 mph, but bettered it in his second trip, posting a lap in 46.606 seconds at 193.108 mph.

Joe Nemechek captured his third career Bud Pole with a lap in 46.187 seconds at a speed of 194.860 mph. Ricky Rudd was second in the Tide Ford, followed by Mark Martin, Chad Little and Rusty Wallace, who round out the top-five.

Earnhardt was optimistic about his chances for Saturday night even before taking the track.

"I think it's a good race car," Earnhardt said. "It's the car I won at Talladega with.

"The car is gonna race good," he continued. "It raced good at Talladega and it's set up just like the one we had here in February."

Earnhardt finished second at this year's Daytona 500.

Earnhardt poised for win, record in Pepsi 400  June 17
When Dale Earnhardt returns to Daytona International Speedway for the Pepsi 400 on July 3, he will be looking for the win that so narrowly escaped him in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500. He also will be poised to break a long-held record by Cale Yarborough as the all-time Pepsi 400 lap leader. Full Story.

 



Return To 1999 Race Reports Page


1998, 1999 Unimount Enterprises