Ironically, in all three races, the third lap has been run
under caution. Is Dale letting his presence be known?
During lap three at Atlanta almost all of the 120,000 fans at the
track held at least one hand raised in the air with three fingers held
was even a huge No. 3 was painted in the Atlanta Motor Speedway infield,
just past the finish line.
Harvick, a rookie who answered the call of Richard Childress to take the
ride in the GM Goodwrench Monte Carlo, served Dale Earnhardt and his fans
proud by winning the Cracker Barrel 500 on Sunday.
He said, "There was somebody in the passenger seat of the car
making it go a lot better than I was. All I could think about there at the
end was Dale telling me, 'You want that car to turn, just get into the gas
a little harder.' "
of respect for Earnhardt, and in hopes of making Harvick's challenge of
stepping into his ride a little less stressful, the team changed its
Chevys from the famous black No. 3 to a white No. 29. Harvick finished
14th in that first race at Rockingham and then was eighth last weekend at
Las Vegas. In between, he and his fiancée, DeLana, were married.
stated 5th in Sunday's race and stayed right about there all day until it
came time to "get in the gas a little harder".
race No. 3 of his career he won in the same fashion that Earnhardt did here a year ago.
The car was the same one Earnhardt drove at Atlanta last November where he
won it by executing an Earnhardt-style three-wide pass and then holding
off Jeff Gordon by 0.006 seconds, a closer margin even than Earnhardt's
0.10-second victory over Bobby Labonte in this event a year ago.
one's for Dale,'' said the teary-eyed, 25-year-old rookie who was making
his third start as Earnhardt's replacement. ''Someone was watching over us
remember sitting at home a year ago watching the man win this race,"
Harvick said after winning his first 500-mile start. "I felt somebody
tapping me on the shoulder with about 10 laps to go and saying,
"You'd better get going if you want to win this race."
last five or six laps, I looked up to the sky and said, 'Dale, ol' buddy,
help us out here a little bit,' and he did," said a tearful
Childress, who lost his best employee and best friend at Daytona.
winning the Cracker Barrel 500, Harvick did a doughnut and burnout in
front of the grandstand that would have even made Earnhardt smile. Then he
did a reverse victory lap, which was started when Alan Kulwicki died, and
from the drivers window held his arm high with 3 fingers raised.
This ignited the fans and again all of them were on their feet,
hands held high with three fingers raised.
There are even more
coincidences. Besides Kevin Harvick winning in his 3rd Winston Cup race.
Last year he won 3 Busch series races and finished 3rd in the Busch Series
points standing for the 2000 season. Kevin, also driving a RCR car in
the Busch Grand National Series this year, is currently 3rd in the 2001 Busch series
standings. Harvick was in the top ten in the running order for 303 laps in
Sunday's race. He led a 1-2-3 finish for Chevys to the finish line.
Although Harvick is 11th in driver points, his victory places
the RCR Goodwrench team into 3rd place in the owners' standings.
Matt McLaughlin of
SpeedFx.com, writes a fitting ending to Harvicks win, For a grieving
racing community there's not a lot better tonic than a race with an
exciting finish, the kind of race that Dale would have understood. In this
emotional time after such an emotional finish it's easy to lapse into
quasi-spiritual interpretations that risk being trite, but I'll add my own
to the mix. I remember the 1997 Daytona 500 when Dale Earnhardt rolled the
3 car. While in the ambulance he noted the car had come through the wreck
in fairly decent shape, so he exited the ambulance and told the safety
workers let me back in that thing. I'd guess seeing as strong as his
old team is running, and watching a young man he predicted would be a star
win today's race, Dale Earnhardt is up at that those Pearly Gates
hollering at Saint Peter Let me back in that thing. "
My only regret is that
Dale Jr. was not able to battle Harvick all the way to the end of the
race. He had a car that could have won. He was one of the top-five
battling for the win but a cut tire with just four laps to go caused him
to have to pit for a new tire and he finished 15th. "The
competitor in me is a little jealous," he said. "But I know how
much my father meant to those guys, and it feels good to know they'll be
able to go home tonight and celebrate."
Dale Earnhardt Jr.s time
will come. When it does it will even be sweeter and Ill be crying
legend lives and it's reigning threes.