MAN! You're The MAN!" Earnhardt sweeps Talladega April 26, 1999 by Gary Harris
We returned late last night from a
fantastic weekend at Talladega.
With two laps to go in the Die-Hard 500 the words over the in-car radio from
car owner, Richard Childress, crew chief, Kevin Hamlin, and spotters for the #3 GM
Goodwrench car, were "You're the MAN!, You're the MAN!" and 200,000 fans echoed
that sentiment, standing and cheering as Earnhardt crossed the finish line. Dale Earnhardt
was definitely the man at Talladega on Sunday. In fact, he was the man on Saturday also,
winning his second IROC race of the season.
In the words of a frustrated Rusty Wallace after the conclusion of the IROC
race, "There was nothing I could do. He (Earnhardt) has a patent on that move."
Earnhardt only led one lap of the IROC race but it was the most important lap -- the final
one. With a very similar move on the final lap of the first IROC race of 1999 at
Daytona when Earnhardt set up Mark Martin for the last lap pass to win, Earnhardt did it
again only this time to Rusty Wallace. With less than 200 yards to the finish line
Earnhardt went low. Rusty blocked him. Then Earnhardt went high and held it for the
win. It was the sling-shot move which Earnhardt has made famous.
At the conclusion of the race one reporter asked Earnhardt, "Are you ready
to retire?" Earnhardt answered the question with a question, "Why did I win the
In the IROC series all cars are created equal. No pit crew advantage, and no
in-car communication except for one-way communication from IROC officials. The
International Race of Champions (IROC) is designed to bring the best of the best from
several racing series together in equal cars to determine who is the best driver.
Earnhardt proved in Saturday's second IROC race of the 1999 season that he's the best.
Twice this year Earnhardt has mastered the IROC race and won. Two for two so far and
only two more to go for the '99 season.
Following the IROC race on Saturday and prior to the running of the Busch race
was Winston Cup Happy Hour, the final practice for Sunday's Die-Hard 500. Earnhardt
took his car out and ran it for only about 15 to 20 minutes of the one hour practice
session. As he exited turn four on his final lap of practice heading for pit road,
Earnhardt said, "Fix my seat and headrest. I feel like I am falling out of the
seat." Then he said, "Don't do anything else to the car except get it race
ready. The car is fine."
At the drop of the green flag to begin the Die-Hard 500, Earnhardt was 17th,
his starting position. By laps 11 Earnhardt took the lead and led for five laps, giving
him the all time record for laps led at Talladega." Earnhardt radioed Childress
and said, "Tell Skinner to get up here and I'll let him lead for a little while to
get his bonus points for leading a lap."
Skinner moved into position and took the lead on lap 16 and led until lap 20.
Earnhardt resumed his lead on lap 21 and was clearly the dominant car all day leading the
most laps, 70 of 188. There were 28 lead changes among fourteen drivers. Earnhardt led the
race seven times throughout the day. On lap 175 he took the lead for the final time and
never looked back winning his 72nd career victory at the Talladega Super Speedway.
Earnhardt now holds the record for the most wins at Talladega (8) and the most laps led at
Dale Jarret, Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart rounded out the
top-five finishing positions. Earnhardt's win moved him up to 9th in the Winston Cup
The only thing that could have made this weekend any more perfect than it was,
would have been if Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have won the Busch race on Saturday.
However, with Dale Jr.'s sixth place finish he took the lead in the Busch Series points
Earnhardt has a brand new car for the upcoming race in California and is
expecting to be a factor in the outcome of California 500 on May 2nd.
We will be adding a Talladega race section with more highlight and photos
during the next few weeks. I would do it sooner but am leaving today for a business
trip and won't return until next week.