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Testing Should Help Earnhardt Stay Intimidating At Indy
July 26, 1999


"The Intimidator" is back. At least in the True Value International Race of Champions series.

Dale Earnhardt, at 47, may be on the downhill side of his career, but don’t tell that to the other 11 IROC competitors this season. He has whipped them all at Daytona, Talladega and Michigan.

And in the IROC at Indy season finale Aug. 6 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Earnhardt can become the first driver in IROC’s 23 seasons to score a sweep of all the races. In the past, only Rusty Wallace in 1991 won three in a row.

The IROC cars tested June 14-16 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and IROC President Jay Signore, and drivers Dave Marcis, Jay Sauter and Andy Hillenburg all marveled at and expressed admiration for how the legend has dominated the series.

"It’s pretty amazing when you think about last year when guys were saying he was washed up," Signore said.

"I never thought Dale was washed up, but overall whatever he’s done, whatever his approach is, it’s been pretty phenomenal."

Earnhardt outraced Bobby Labonte to the checkered flag in the opener at Daytona International Speedway in February, slipped by Rusty Wallace at Talladega Superspeedway in April and edged his own son, Dale Jr., at the line on June 11 at Michigan Speedway. And he did all of this without his car once painted his trademark black.

He won in cars painted cream, orange and medium blue.

"I think a lot of it has to do with running against his boy," Hillenburg said. "He wants to beat his boy.

"That’s the way you would want it to be, you know, first time really racing against your son after showing him the ropes and all that stuff. I think that’s made a big difference for him."

Marcis, who has done a lot of Earnhardt’s testing in recent years, also sees a renewed interest in racing shown by the man they called "The Intimidator" in his younger years.

"He’s putting more effort into his qualifying," said Marcis, whose 32 consecutive starts in the Daytona 500 is a record.

"He’s been more willing to test this season. And I think he realizes that his people are willing to do whatever is necessary to do to that race car, but he has to test it and tell ‘em what to do."

Marcis noted that after two-time IROC champion Earnhardt had won two races, he badly wanted to win a third. And, Marcis adds, Earnhardt will be hungrier than ever trying to win that fourth one at Indy for a sweep.

"It should be quite a show, because he’ll be starting at the rear again," he said.

The points leader starts last in the 12-car field in IROC competition.

Sauter, the veteran from Wisconsin, pointed out that Mark Martin had found some driving secrets with the IROC cars that enabled him to win the last three IROC series championships, but he hasn’t been able to handle Earnhardt this time around.

Martin still could win a record fourth straight title. But it’s a long shot. He is second in the points, trailing 68-48. Martin needs to win the race at Indy, lead the most laps and have Earnhardt finish ninth or lower without being among the top three in total laps led during the race.

"Dale is renewed somewhat, I think, this year," Sauter said. "(His son) probably has got a lot to do with it. Young Junior is doing a hell of a job, too.

"Back to Dale. He knows he can do it. I think we’ve all known he could do it. With the IROC car, he’s in equipment that’s more equal. And I think that probably not only has shown him he can still do it, because you get down on yourself - believe me, you do - but he’s also shown his shop they’ve got to get to work, because he’s doing it somewhere else."

One of the keys to Earnhardt’s IROC success this season is that the races have taken place on superspeedways where drafting plays such an important role, Sauter said. He called Earnhardt the drafting master.

"Drafting (at Indy) is going to be a similar situation," he said.

"We’re almost flat out with these cars all the way around. The speed is 160-mph average, which is pretty spiffy for a little car that’s only got 400 horsepower. So it’s going to be a drafting situation here, too."

Earnhardt, who won the Winston Cup race at Talladega this spring and the IROC event, started sixth in the first race, and 12th in the final two. Signore said Earnhardt did not have a dominant car in any of the races.

Earnhardt dueled with his son out of the fourth turn to the checkered flag. Earnhardt bumped Dale Jr., who retaliated trying to slow his father’s momentum. Dad came up quickly and gave his son another shot and they crossed the line with the elder Earnhardt in the lead by a couple of feet.

Signore said Dale Jr. told the media: "That’s the extra experience Dad has. He beat me out and that’s the way it should be."

Marcis said the three test drivers - Hillenberg is an Indianapolis native -- were working hard to get the cars in a neutral setup for this year’s race at Indy. He thought last year, in the Indy debut of the series, that the cars were too tight, creating less passing.

Sauter concurred with Marcis’ assessment. He said the cars - which hit 200 mph down the main straight - were locked into one long groove. He said that it was the test drivers’ job to overcome this problem.

"We’ve just got to keep digging," he said. "That’s what a test is all about."


On TV: IROC at Indy will be televised at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 7 on ABC.

Read previous 1999 IROC race coverage, click here.

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DE and Jr at the Line
Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jr finish 1st/2nd at Michigan IROC

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Blk3GM's Dale Earnhardt Site was born on July 26, 1998 and is owned and maintained by Gary Harris.  This site is a tribute to "NASCAR's Greatest Driver" and his up and coming son.  We are not affiliated with any official Team, Sponsors, Media Group or NASCAR.  This site is solely for entertainment purposes.  Information and statistic's on this site have been collected from various NASCAR related sites on the internet, from Winston Cup Scene, Newspapers, Television and our personal experience at Winston Cup and Busch Grand National races.  All statistics are believed to be accurate at the time they are updated but cannot be guaranteed.
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