2000 Race Reports
Cracker Barrel 500


Race: Cracker Barrel 500 (Race No. 4)
Date: March 12, 2000
Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Qualified: 35th
Finished: 1st
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 325 of 325
Points Pos. Before/After Race: 6/3
Points Earned: 180 (including 5 bonus points)
Money Earned: $123,100


Earnhardt soars to victory in Atlanta!_3/12
Seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt won the Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in one of the closest finishes in Winston Cup history, defeating Bobby Labonte by .01 seconds.

It was the 75th career Winston Cup victory and ninth at this track for Earnhardt, who started 35th.

ESPN Video
Dale Earnhardt beats Bobby Labonte by a bumper in the Cracker Barrel 500.
avi: 2694 k

Dale Earnhardt discusses his win at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
avi: 1640 k

To put the result in perspective, the two cars crossed the finish line side by side with the nose of Earnhardt's Chevrolet some eight inches ahead of Labonte's bumper.

"It was an incredible finish," Earnhardt said. "I was just running and holding Bobby Labonte off. We went at it as hard as we could. That is what we had to do. Mike Skinner had run awfully well all day long, but we were able to get to victory lane.

"Mike Skinner had the car to beat, and then we broke something in the engine. Bobby Labonte was strong after three or four laps. I found a groove and I was holding him off. That was good racing, that was close."

Sunday featured fantastic racing throughout with a season-high 30 lead changes among 17 drivers. But the driver who led the most was Skinner, who was in front for 191 laps of the 325-lap race before his engine blew up just 20 laps from his first career victory.

That came one lap after a restart following a caution flag after Michael Waltrip's engine blew on lap 298. The leaders pitted on lap 300 and Earnhardt told his crew to change all four tires, rather than only two. Although that put Earnhardt fourth on the restart on lap 304, he immediately passed Mark Martin in the second turn and Labonte for second place on the same lap.

Moments later, Skinner's race ended in a puff of smoke from the engine.

Earlier, Skinner and Earnhardt were involved in an on-track altercation that pushed in Earnhardt's right-front fender and caused Earnhardt to shake his fist at Skinner, who was trying to block his teammate's Chevrolet.

"Pow, no warning whatsoever," Skinner said of his engine. "I ran the Chevrolet as hard as it would go. That's all we had, it just came up 20 laps short. It's a pretty stout car. It's a shame. I don't know what I've done, I'm sure sorry. I've got a monkey on my back, I'll tell you.

"I'd crash my mom to win my first race. Dale did what he had to do and I did what he had to do. I'm sure he'd do the same thing to me. I wasn't going to wreck him, but I sure hope Dale Earnhardt wins this race."

The green flag waved on lap 313 with Earnhardt in front, followed by Labonte's Pontiac. Martin, Steve Park and Ken Schrader rounded out the top five.

One lap later, Labonte used a high line in an attempt to go around Earnhardt for the lead. Earnhardt's Chevrolet ran better on the low side and maintained its position.

But on lap 316, Labonte went high and Earnhardt went to block him. Labonte was able to pass Earnhardt on the backstretch, but the seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion did not give in as he put his Chevrolet around the high side of turns 3 and 4 to regain the lead at the start-finish line.

Earnhardt began to pull away from Labonte's Pontiac, building a five-car length advantage. But on the white flag lap, Labonte closed to his bumper, drew up to the side of Earnhardt's car and the two raced side by side through turns 3 and 4 before crossing the finish line two abreast.

Martin was third in a Ford, followed by Park and Joe Nemechek.

Earnhardt's bid for a record eighth title got considerable help today from the misfortunes of a few drivers. Dale Jarrett, Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart, all who were ahead of Earnhardt in the points going into Atlanta, all had DNF's today. That, combined with Earnhardt's win, moved the Man in Black up four sports to 3rd in the points, 68 points behind points-leader Bobby Labonte.

Earnhardt makes like Lone Ranger and saves NASCAR
At precisely the right moment, Earnhardt rescued NASCAR. When the Cracker Barrel 500 began, this vast, powerful governing body had been reduced to a damsel in distress, tied up and bound with the steam locomotive bearing down. Full Story.

Earnhardt's victory just what NASCAR ordered_3/15
The spectacular finish in Atlanta was a huge relief to NASCAR officials, who had been agonizing for weeks about what to do with its Winston Cup Series. The first three races of the season had been less than thrilling, starting with a boring, poorly rated Daytona 500. Full Story.

One fan's Atlanta scanner report

Earnhardt qualifies 35th
Dale Earnhardt qualified 35th on Friday in qualifying at Atlanta. Dale Earnhardt Inc. drivers Dale Jr. and Steve Park were strong in qualifying -- Earnhardt Jr. qualified 2nd while Park was 3rd.

Powerful Earnhardt ready for Atlanta_3/9
It is no secret that Dale Earnhardt cast a very large shadow in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. And no, the Intimidator hasn't put on a lot of weight. Full Story.

Chevy Rule Change 'Right Direction'_3/7
NASCAR is permitting a modification that will allow Monte Carlo teams to extend their front air dam 2 inches forward below the bumper from the current measurement. Monte Carlo crew chiefs discussed the rule modification and how it could help at Atlanta this weekend. Full Article.

NASCAR changes rules for Chevrolet cars_3/6
Chevrolet's Winston Cup teams will be allowed to extend their front air dams two inches forward below the bumper on their 2000 Monte Carlos beginning with Sunday's Cracker Barrel 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Full Story.

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