Dale Earnhardt's 'favorite
track' still Daytona
By BOB POCKRASS, Staff Writer - News Journal Online
June 29, 1999
DAYTONA BEACH - Dale Earnhardt has won only two races in the last 108 Winston Cup events,
so does he remain a favorite when coming to Daytona International Speedway this week?
Well, consider that both of those wins have come on restrictor-plate tracks - Daytona in
1998 and Talladega in 1999.
And consider that Earnhardt has won 32 races at the famous tri-oval.
"I'm at my favorite track," Earnhardt said with a wry smile. "I should be
A mastermind at restrictor-plate racing, Earnhardt has only three finishes worse than 10th
in his last 25 Winston Cup races at DIS. He placed second in the Daytona 500 in February.
"The race is a big chess game you've got to play," Earnhardt said. "You
have to be careful and stay in position and use your head and wait for the right time.
There's a lot going on during the race."
Racing at night in the Pepsi 400 in July is no different than racing during the day in the
Daytona 500 in February, Earnhardt said. The only difference comes in the buildup to the
"It is the same except you do it in two or three days," Earnhardt said.
"It's exciting, and I have a good time with this deal. It's not something we drag out
for a couple of weeks."
Last year's race, though, was a drag for Earnhardt in the first event under the lights.
Earnhardt, who led 41 of the first 93 laps, hit a tire in the pits and had to settle for a
"It was a great race," Earnhardt said. "We had a good race car, and I
thought we were going to run great. We ended up hitting that tire on pit road, knocked the
nose in and it pushed us back.
"Then we just survived."
Surviving - not winning - has seemed to be Earnhardt's mantra over the last couple of
Winston Cup seasons. Although the wins have been rare, he was fifth in points in 1997 and
eighth in 1998.
He sits seventh just about midway through the 1999 season with no top-fives besides his
runs at Daytona and Talladega.
"I pretty much feel like I'm a top-five driver," Earnhardt said. "I can get
in there and do it with them. I see the car turning around where we're running better and
"If the cars can do it, I can do it. You've got to have that attitude. You've got
have that focus and belief in your team and car."
Part of that belief stems from an alliance between his race team (with Steve Park and Dale
Earnhardt Jr. as drivers), his car owner Richard Childress, and Andy Petree Racing. The
alliance-known as RAD-pools the teams' knowledge on the aerodynamics of the Chevrolet
That information has improved all the race cars, including the team's restrictor-plate
vehicles. It means that those teams have five cars going to the wind tunnel for tests
instead of one or two apiece.
"It's not something everybody else hasn't got-Roush's teams, Hendricks' teams, all
these guys have got these same programs," Earnhardt said. "It just took three
teams to put a program like that together.
"We just had to go out and put our resources together with Andy, Richard and myself
to afford and accomplish what we wanted to do. It would have been ideal if Richard could
have done it by himself or I could have done it by myself."
Also contributing to his confidence level was the win at Talladega, where Earnhardt led 70
of the 188 laps, including the final 14.
"The win at Talladega was tremendous," said Earnhardt, who owns 72 Winston Cup
wins and seven series championships. "It's harder to win than it used to be. It's
harder to get back to that point where you can win consistently or be a contender to win
every week. My confidence is a lot better."
His confidence is high enough that sitting in his trailer a couple of weeks ago and
seventh in points, Earnhardt still had an eighth championship in his sights.
"I've still got hope for it," he said. "We ran out of gas at California and
lost three positions. We should have pitted at Dover-it wasn't anybody's wrong call, it
was a joint effort that we didn't pit.
"We all made the wrong decision at the end of the day. It's things like that. You've
got to use your head to capitalize on your day and where you're at. We just need to use
our heads a little better."
And a couple of wins wouldn't hurt, either.
"We've got to race in the top five and finish in the top five or 10," Earnhardt
said. "You've got to win some races. I can't win just every once in a while. I can't
win just on speedways.
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