Earnhardt finishes 9th
in Phoenix, title hopes fade_11/5
Dale Earnhardt knows that the possibility of
winning an eighth NASCAR Winston Cup championship is 2000 is all but gone.
After finishing ninth in Sunday's Checker Auto Parts/Dura-Lube 500K at Phoenix
International Raceway and falling 218 points back of Bobby Labonte, Earnhardt said,
"We had some good shots at running good at places like Dover, Charlotte, Rockingham
and here. And we just fell short. You can't win a championship like that.
"Me and Kevin (Hamlin, crew chief) threw a mystery setup under this thing this
morning. We were awful loose getting in (the corner) and center off. We worked on it all
day long, but we were driving our tails off. The guys worked hard in the pits.
"The weather didn't really matter for us today. We were messed up sunny or
With Labonte finishing fifth, he is now in position to clinch the championship next Sunday
at Homestead, Fla. If Labonte finishes fifth or better or sixth or better and leads one
lap, he will become the 2000 champion. And he could skip the season finale at Atlanta. In
a worst-case scenario, if Labonte finishes 28th or better in the last two races, he will
win the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup title.
"Right now, I've got to worry about second," said Earnhardt, who leads Jeff
Burton by just eight points in the battle for the runner-up position.
"If we can't win it, we want to finish second," said Earnhardt. "We just
need to go to Homestead and Atlanta and win them both. And we think we can. A couple of
wins would make us feel a lot better (for not winning the championship)."
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
Coming into Sunday's Checker Auto Parts/Dura-Lube 500K at Phoenix International Raceway,
Dale Earnhardt's average finish at the one-mile track was 9.58. He finished ninth on
Sunday for his ninth top-10 finish in 13 races at Phoenix.
"Top-10s are nice, but you need to finish in the top five if you want to win
championships," said Earnhardt. "Look at Bobby (Labonte). He has more top-fives
(17) than anyone, and he's going to win the title. We just haven't finished in the top
Earnhardt has 12 top-fives in the 32 events.
BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- The number of points that separate Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Burton in
the race for second place in the NASCAR Winston Cup point race entering the final two
events of the year.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We had some good shots at running good at places like Dover,
Charlotte, Rockingham and here, and we just fell short. You can't win a championship like
that." -- Dale Earnhardt NUTS AND BOLTS Crew chief Kevin Hamlin says he and Dale
Earnhardt made major changes to the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet Monte Carlo on
"We gambled on a few things, and they just didn't work as we hoped," said
Hamlin. "We knew we weren't good enough after Happy Hour (the final hour of
practice), so we decided to make wholesale changes this morning. We were OK, but nowhere
near as good as we needed to be to run with the 18 (Bobby Labonte) and the 99 (Jeff
Burton). But maybe we learned a few things for Homestead (the race on Nov. 12)."
No. 3 team running out of time
Earnhardt qualifies 31st_11/3
Dale Earnhardt qualified in the 31st position during
first-round qualifying at Phoenix.
Race No. 32: Phoenix Int'l
The Winston Cup series makes its third-to-last stop of the season this weekend at
Phoenix Int'l Raceway. A winner in Phoenix back
in 1990, Earnhardt has finished in the top-5 in five of 12 starts at the track (last year
Dale has only three races, including this one, to make up 201 points on Bobby Labonte in
the chase for the Winston Cup championship. He finished in the top-10 in 22 races this
year including two victories.
The weather forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms in the area over the weekend.
Qualifying takes place at 4:15 p.m. eastern on Friday. Happy Hour is Saturday at 1:30. The
Checker Auto/Dura Lube 500k gets under way at 2 p.m. eastern on Sunday.
By the Time I Get to Phoenix_11/2
Phoenix International Raceway is a
relative newcomer to the Winston Cup schedule but it has already produced some memorable
events. Coming as the event prior to the grand finale in Atlanta, the outcome at Phoenix
has aided the title hopes of some, and dashed the plans of others. Full Story.