Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Countdown To Daytona Beach · Matt McLaughlin · Sunday February 10, 2008
Editor’s Note: With the 50th running of the Daytona 500 just days away, we’re proud to present Frontstretch Senior Writer Matt McLaughlin’s “History Of Daytona” series. Starting February 1st and ending Sunday, February 10th, McLaughlin will profile all 49 Daytona 500s – and whether it’s Pearson and Petty spinning through the grass or Dale Earnhardt finally getting the monkey off his back, he’ll have you feeling as if you’re back in the middle of the action all over again.
In Part Nine of his series, Matt chronicles one Dale getting the monkey of his back … while another rises to legendary status in the Great American Race. By the way, did you miss Matt’s earlier retrospectives? Check out the links below to catch up.
When the Winston Cup crews arrived at Daytona for the kickoff event of the 1994 season, one of the track’s favorite sons had been lost. Davey Allison, who had been part of those memorable finishes of 1988 and 1992, lost his life in a helicopter accident the previous summer. With Allison leaving a huge void to fill at Robert Yates Racing, Ernie Irvan had signed on to drive the Havoline Ford Davey made famous, leaving the Morgan-McClure team that had helped him claim the 1991 Daytona 500. The split had not been an amicable one, and there were hard feelings on both sides; Sterling Marlin was eventually tabbed to inherit the ride in the Kodak Chevy.
Perhaps fittingly that year’s Daytona 500 would come down to a contest between those two drivers and teams. Early in Speedweeks, it seemed the story to watch was going to be the return of Hoosiers to the sport and the resumption of the tire war. Only a few teams had signed on to run Hoosiers, most notably Darrell Waltrip and Geoff Bodine, but it was Loy Allen in a Hoosier-shod Ford that stunned everyone by taking the pole position for the race. The expected confrontation between the tire companies never took place; in a terrible tragedy leading up to the race, Neil Bonnett was killed in practice, and while it was not immediately known if it was a tire failure that caused the fatal wreck, Bob Newton, president of Hoosier, announced for safety’s sake, they were withdrawing their tires from that event. (It later turned out it was a cut tire, not tire failure that led to the tragedy).
During the race itself, Ernie Irvan seemed to have the car to beat that day, with plenty of Robert Yates horsepower under the hood. But Sterling also had a strong car, and he assumed the lead late in the going. Irvan managed to regain the advantage, but unfortunately, his last set of tires were not to his liking, and Marlin took the lead for good with 21 laps remaining. For a time, it seemed the two Fords of Irvan and Mark Martin would draft together to get by Marlin, but Mark ran out of gas for the second time in as many races at Daytona, and Irvan ran out of drafting help. So, Sterling Marlin won his first race in 278 starts that day at the same track where his father, Coo Coo Marlin, stunned everyone by winning a 125-mile qualifying race as an underdog independent, proving the nut does not fall far from the tree.
Tires once again were a major story at the Daytona 500 of 1995, but the problem was a perceived shortage of Goodyears that led to dire predictions that by the end of the race there would be no tires left for the final pit stops. NASCAR tried to intervene to distribute the tires to all the front runners as other competitors fell out, leading to the memorable scene of Dave Marcis sitting atop his tires refusing to give them up, having promised them to his friends on Dale Earnhardt’s team. Sterling Marlin was back, and though he had not won a race since the ’94 500 he was considered an early favorite. But Sterling was living in the shadows of the week’s big winner Dale Earnhardt, with everyone saying it was finally going to be Dale’s day to win. Earnhardt had already won his qualifying race, the Busch Clash, and the IROC race…there was just one trophy left to collect, and Dale was on a roll. For numerologists, it was also Dale’s 17th attempt at the 500, the exact amount of tries it had taken another star-crossed Daytona 500 veteran, Darrell Waltrip, to win his first race. While Earnhardt may have had the prerace attention, it was Sterling Marlin who emerged from his shadows to dominate the race, leading over half the laps. Running on worn rubber in fifth place, Earnhardt knew he had nothing to offer Marlin, so his team gambled and pitted for fresh rubber during a late caution period while most of the lead lap cars stayed out. Earnhardt restarted in 14th, but quickly began charging through the field. In the end, his gallant effort came up one position short, and once again, Dale was “first loser” in the Daytona 500, this time to Marlin. “ This is the Daytona 500, and I don’t reckon I’m supposed to win the damn thing.” a frustrated Earnhardt told the TV crews. Meanwhile Marlin was celebrating in Victory Lane, adding his name to a short list of back-to-back Daytona 500 winners: Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough. That’s pretty good company to keep.
Sterling was back for the 1996 Daytona 500 and followed all his normal prerace rituals, including the fried bologna sandwich for breakfast, in an attempt to be the first driver ever to win three consecutive Daytona 500s. Unfortunately, he fried an engine in the race itself, and wound up 40th. Once again, Earnhardt looked like the man to beat. He won the pole for the race, the IROC race, and his seventh straight 125-miler qualifier race. It seemed Lady Luck only took a dislike to Dale for the 500 itself, but he seemed clearly established to break the curse heading into Sunday. Meanwhile, Dale Jarrett was back with Robert Yates driving a second car, a move that surprised many people as Jarrett had only won one race with the No. 28 bunch the year before while subbing for an injured Ernie Irvan. He was out to prove Yate’s confidence in him was well-founded; as it turned out, it was. In the closing laps of the race, it came down to the Dale and Dale show, just as it had in 1993. Ken Schrader and Mark Martin were the jokers in the pack; with the draft as important as it is at Daytona, whichever Dale they chose to partner with would have a clear advantage. Mark was in a Ford and Schrader in a Chevy, so it seemed obvious which of the twosome they each would choose. It didn’t happen like that. Earnhardt ducked low on Jarrett several times, but Schrader would not join him, as Kenny was trying to hook up with Mark to get around Earnhardt and perhaps take a shot at Jarrett. So, just as they had in 1993, Jarrett and Earnhardt raced hard to the checkered flag, but once again Jarrett took the victory, and a clearly annoyed Earnhardt had to settle for yet another second place, all the while crossing Ken Schrader off his Christmas card list for the foreseeable future.
The 1997 Daytona 500 was another race Earnhardt seemed to have a great chance of winning, as he battled with his old nemesis Bill Elliott late in the going. While the early stages of the race were run without any of those fearsome chain reaction wrecks that often mar restrictor plate races, in the end it was a crash that decided it. Jeff Gordon seemed out of contention after having to pit for an equalized tire that almost had him a lap down and running by himself while the lead draft closed in. A timely caution though, let Jeff stay on the lead lap, and he quickly worked his way back to the front. Long time fans of the sport were thrilled to see two favorites, Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt, leading the pack, seemingly trying to open a little distance so they could decide the race amongst themselves. Behind them, the two Robert Yates cars, Ernie Irvan and Dale Jarrett, were working together to close in on Jeff Gordon, who was positioned third. But behind the Yates cars, streaming to the aid of their Hendrick teammate, Gordon, were Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven. It looked to be a strategist’s race at that point…but the complexion of the race changed in the blink of an eye. Earnhardt skated up the track a little coming off turn two, and Gordon dove low for the pass. Earnhardt brushed the wall, came back, and tagged Gordon. While Gordon was able to drive on, Ernie Irvan got into the back of Earnhardt, setting off a wreck that saw Eanrhardt’s car roll violently, also collecting Jarrett in the process. While in the ambulance Earnhardt noted, somewhat surprised, his thoroughly battered race car still had four wheels under it, heading in approximately the right direction. He climbed out of the ambulance and asked the tow truck operator to try starting the car. When the engine thundered to life, Dale hopped back in his car and drove it back to the pits, where after some brutal sheetmetal surgery, a bunch of bungee cords, and a mile of duct tape were employed, the team got the car patched up enough to finish the race, to the thunderous applause of the crowd. That left Gordon, Labonte, and Craven to battle Elliott’s Ford for the win. Imagine poor Bill Elliott, looking in the rearview mirror heading to the restart and not only seeing three bow ties and no blue ovals, but three teammates to boot, carefully coordinating their strategy via two-way radio. Shortly after racing resumed, Gordon dove low to try to get around Elliott. Elliott moved low to block him, but Jeff moved still lower. Longtime fans were expecting a replay of Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough’s wreck at the ’79 500, but Bill moved up just enough to allow Gordon enough room for the pass rather than having them both wrecked out of the event. That minor lift out of the throttle allowed the other two Hendrick cars to pass Elliott, too. Whether Bill could have battled back to win quickly became a mute point; a violent 11-car wreck caused the race to end under caution. The three Hendrick teammates, Gordon, Labonte and Craven, finished 1-2-3, in that order, a Daytona 500 first. Gordon also became the third different Team Hendrick driver to win the Daytona 500, a feat only the Wood Brothers and Petty Engineering had managed previously.
1998 marked NASCAR's big 50th Anniversary Celebration, and the sanctioning body couldn't have scripted a better way to kick off the season. Buddy Baker had broken his Daytona 500 curse in 1980. Darrell Waltrip had finally managed to win the Daytona 500 in 1989, nine years later. Another nine years had passed, and it seemed time that Dale Earnhardt would finally beat the bad luck that had plagued him in the biggest race of the year. Earnhardt did nothing to dispel the notion, winning his ninth straight 125-Mile qualifying race. As the race began, Earnhardt was strong but not overpowering; however, on lap 140, he regained the lead from his teammate Mike Skinner, putting himself in control of his own destiny. A late caution (only the second of the event) allowed everyone to pit for fresh rubber and enough gas to get to the end with 30 laps remaining. At that point, Earnhardt still had the lead, but teammates Jeremy Mayfield and Rusty Wallace, as well as Bobby Labonte, were set to give him a hard run to the checkers. The drama ended one lap prematurely, when on lap 198, Jimmy Spencer got into John Andretti, triggering a wreck. Realizing that the race would end under caution, the five lead cars waged an epic scrap on lap 199, with both Labonte and Mayfield coming hard after the No. 3 car. Coming onto the frontstretch, Rick Mast's slower car blocked the low lane. Earnhardt used that car as a pick, and Mayfield and Labonte touched several times trying to get around Mast, losing their momentum. Having made the right move, Earnhardt took the white and yellow flags that guaranteed him a victory. As a salute to one of the most accomplished NASCAR drivers ever, every member of every team came out across pit wall and lined up to congratulate Earnhardt as he came slowly down pit road, with The Intimidator’s hand out the window exchanging high fives with the other members of the NASCAR family. To cap off the celebration, an emotional Earnhardt took to the trioval grass (after radioing NASCAR for permission) and wrote a big number "3" with his spinning rear tires in the turf.
The 1999 Daytona 500 was a wild affair that seemed a wide open battle among all the sport's top drivers. The complexion of the race changed completely on 135 when contact between teammates Kenny Irwin and Dale Jarrett set off "The Big One," a 13 car pig pile of a wreck that eliminated Jarrett, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Steve Park and others. Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon hooked up late in the race to drive to the front; Rusty Wallace, who led the most laps in the race, had the lead, but the rainbow colored and black cars were stalking him relentlessly, as both had fresher tires than Wallace. On lap 190, Gordon made a "no guts, no glory" move to get around Wallace. Jeff dove low, and Rusty moved down the track to block the move. Gordon continued onto the apron of the track, and the two cars were running side-by-side. Up ahead lay the crash damaged and slow moving car of Ricky Rudd, also on the apron of the race track. It was a high speed / high stakes game of chicken, and finally, Rusty got out of the throttle and moved to his right to allow Gordon room to get back on the track. His momentum broken, Wallace not only lost the lead, but fell back to eighth place in the final rundown. For the final ten laps, Earnhardt and Gordon went at it Hell's Bells, and even coming out of turn four to the checkers it was not clear who had the advantage. In the end, Gordon prevailed by 0.128 seconds in a race that lasted over three hours.
There haven't been many Daytona 500s as dull as the 2000 event. From the very start of Speedweeks, it was clear Dale Jarrett had the dominant car. He took the pole, and he won the Bud Shootout. The only real drama in 2000 came after a Happy Hour wreck significantly damaged the No. 88 car. Unwilling to relinquish DJ's pole position, Robert Yates called the fabricators back at the shop outside of Charlotte and told them to get to Daytona Beach right away. When they arrived, Todd Parrott briefed them on the damage he'd found on the car before the garage area closed for the evening. At 4:45 that morning, the No. 88 team began rebuilding the extensively damaged car.
When the race started, DJ felt out the car for a few laps, announced it was race ready and went directly to the front. A small group of drivers latched onto the fleet Ford and formed a five-car breakaway that drove effortlessly away from the field. During the final round of scheduled pit stops, frustrated crew chiefs kept trying to come up with a magic formula that would allow them to beat the clearly dominant No. 88 car. Some tried two tire stops, including Johnny Benson's Tim Beverly owned team that had arrived at Daytona without a sponsor. The gambit nearly paid off and allowed Benson to pull the upset, but a six car wreck triggered a lap 194 caution and allowed Jarrett to restart on the tail of Benson's car. DJ simply pushed the No. 10 car aside, went into the lead, and took off to take the checkers. Benson fell to 12th in the final rundown, while Jarrett won his third Daytona 500.
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