2000 Race Reports
Winston 500

 

Race: Winston 500 (Race No. 30)
Date: October 15, 2000
Track: Talladega Superspeedway
Qualified: 20th
Finished: 1st
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 188 of 188
Points Pos. Before/After Race: 3/2
Points Earned: 180 (5 bonus)
Money Earned: $135,900

Summary:

Earnhardt charges to front, defends Winston 500 win!_10/15
By David Poole
The legend grows.

Dale Earnhardt, seemingly out of contention for victory with less than a dozen laps left in Sunday's Winston 500, came roaring through traffic and scored an absolutely remarkable victory in an absolutely remarkable race.

It is impossible to adequately describe either the racing action that marked Sunday's race at Talladega Superspeedway or the comeback that Earnhardt fashioned to win for the 76th time in his career.

He earned a $1 million bonus from Winston for winning the No Bull 5 event - and earned every penny. He also won a $1 million prize for a race fan from Maryland in the process.

The big wreck that everybody expected didn't come until after the checkered flag flew. Cars racing behind Earnhardt, runner-up Kenny Wallace and third-place Joe Nemechek and the remainder of the lead pack crashed as they came across the finish line four- and possibly five-wide. Nobody was hurt.

Earnhardt was 15th on the final restart on Lap 174. He was 18th with 11 laps to go. He was still 15th on Lap 180.

It didn't matter. With drafting help from Kenny Wallace, including a few raps on the bumper, Earnhardt fought his way through the pack. Suddenly, with two laps remaining, he popped out through the middle of a three-wide race off Turn 4 and was suddenly right back in the hunt.

Up front, Skinner and Andretti were battling for the lead when Earnhardt started bearing down on them. As the cars came to the white flag, Earnhardt had the lead. He pulled ahead of the pack with only Wallace and Joe Nemechek in tow, and held on for the victory for the final lap around the 2.66-mile track.

"I was very lucky," Earnhardt said. "I kept working the outside and it didn't work. I started working the middle and finally it started moving. Kenny helped me get up there. It worked out."

As the cars came off Turn 4 on Lap 168, Jeff Gordon headed toward pit road for his final pit stop. Mark Martin slowed behind him to follow him, but slowed quicker than Bobby Hamilton expected. Hamilton and Martin made contact, with Hamilton spinning into the inside pit wall and Martin spinning across the trioval grass.

Gordon was already on pit road when the caution came out, so he got his final load of fuel and got back on the track before everybody else came in. Ricky Rudd took fuel only on his stop, too, and came back on the track second behind Gordon, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr, Skinner and Bobby Labonte, who all got two tires on their stops.

The restart came on Lap 174, leaving 15 laps to settle the outcome and 27 cars in the lead lap. Earnhardt Jr. took the lead around the high side in Turn 1 a lap after the restart, with Labonte coming to second behind him. Skinner managed to pass Tony Stewart's lapped car for third on Lap 180 with Rudd and John Andretti moving into the top five.

It looked like the winner would come from that group, but that was before Earnhardt hooked up in the draft with Wallace and Nemechek and came to the front and to the victory, the 10th of his career here and the third in the past four Talladega races.

It was typical Talladega right from the green flag.

Joe Nemechek started on the pole, but got freight-trained back to 16th on the first lap. Dave Marcis, who started ninth, led the second lap. But the time the cars completed Lap 3, he was back to 11th.

Jeff Gordon, who damaged his Chevrolet in Saturday's final practice, had to start the race from the back of the field in his back-up car. On Lap 13, he lead a line of cars on the outside lane to the front of the pack and moved all the way to the lead.

As quickly as the outside lane started to work, however, it started to fade. The lead continued to shuffle around through the first round of green-flag pit stops, with Bill Elliott getting the top spot on Lap 42 and resuming it after the round of stops.

Elliott led 33 straight laps until a three-wide race for the lead developed on Lap 85. Hamilton and Gordon then took their turns out front and before long it was right back to the pattern that had shown itself early on.

The race remained clean and green until Lap 104, just as the second round of pit stops were being completed, Marcis' Chevrolet lost power and coasted to a stop off Turn 4 just before the entrance to pit road. That brought out the day's first yellow flag.

The second came shortly thereafter, on Lap 116, when Ward Burton cut a tire on the backstretch and limped back toward pit road. The leaders made pit stops on this yellow, with Mike Bliss and Rusty Wallace taking fuel and no tires to come out first.

Wallace had the lead when the green flew, but in short order it was rookies Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth came to the front. On Lap 123, Winston Cup points leader Bobby Labonte took over first place, becoming the 19th different leader to that point in the race.

The action didn't slow down. Terry Labonte led. Ken Schrader led. Who didn't lead? Tony Stewart, for one, who had led earlier but needed an unscheduled pit stop for loose lug nuts and lost a lap. Two-wide races for the lead were commonplace, three-wide battles were frequent. Drivers picked and changed drafting partners the way 13-year-olds swap sweethearts.

Ward Burton, whose flat tire had brought out the second caution, was back up to second and challenging for the lead on Lap 144.

Finally, Earnhardt Jr. got the lead and managed to stay there for a while as the final round of pit stops for everyone on in the field. That's when the wreck at the entrance of pit road brought out the final yellow and set up the amazing finish.

 

Other 'Day After The Win' Articles:
Click To Listen Chemistry has Childress, Earnhardt going strong
Earnhardt feels like $1 million
The Intimidation Factor
That Old Black Magic
Win And A Million

 

 

Other Winning Articles:
Click To See... 3-mendous at Talladega!
No Bull win makes one fan real happy
Earnhardt Pulls of Talladega Surprise
Earnhardt takes another Talladega checkered flag
Earnhardt overcomes rules and traffic to win Winston 500





20th in qualifying at Talladega
_10/13
With a lap of 186.801 mph in qualifying, Dale Earnhardt will start 20th in Sunday's Winston 500 at Talladega. Earnhardt, with three victories, is the only active driver to have won the Winston 500 more than twice. He also has nine victories overall at Talladega, five more than any other driver.

Two cars needed extensive Bondo work after Friday morning inspection. Richard Childress' No. 3, as usual, got a going-over. Jack Roush's No. 17 also needed work at the front of the roof.


Does the air show? It seems to for seven-time champion
Talladega changes make for intriguing weekend
Earnhardt looks for Talladega boost
More drafting, maybe 'slingshot' moves on tap

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