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Dale Jr. dominates at Dover Downs
June 5, 1999 - By Rick Houston, NASCAR Online

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was cruising, absolutely cruising, in the MBNA Platinum 200 at Dover Downs International Speedway. The 1998 NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion took the lead from Dick Trickle on lap 89 and never looked back. He led the rest of the way to collect his first win of the season, and the eighth of his career.

Now, just maybe, they'll be no more questions concerning his fledgling NASCAR Winston Cup Series efforts dividing his attention. Maybe. The win was Earnhardt's second in a row in the spring race at Dover Downs.

"We had a good car," said Earnhardt, who dedicated the victory to crew chief Tony Eury Sr.'s father, Ralph, who passed away recently. "The Monte Carlo ran good all day. We just tried to stay out of trouble. This is how we won that one last year."

When Earnhardt moved past Trickle as they hustled off Turn 4, NASCAR Winston Cup Series regular Ward Burton used the opened inside lane to take second. Burton spent the rest of the afternoon chasing Earnhardt. It was a futile chase, at the very best, after Burton's Bill Davis Racing Pontiac developed an exhaust leak during the second half of the race.

"He was down a cylinder or something on restarts, and he'd have trouble," Earnhardt said. "I tell ya what, if he was down a cylinder, I'd have hated to seen all eight of 'em going. He started coming on there at the end. I was kinda running the right front (tire) off the car. It was a little tight. So I was trying to save it.

"I just didn't want to make any mistakes. I knew he could stand to gain a couple tenths (of a second) a lap on me without beating me. So I kinda let that happen. I really pushed the right front off, and got to the checkered."

The problem drained precious horsepower away from Burton, who was making his first NASCAR Busch Series start since October 1996 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He mounted a small charge at Earnhardt in the closing laps, but it was far too little, far too late. It was something akin to taking a cork popgun to a shootout at the OK Corral. Earnhardt's Chevrolet was that strong.

"We had some motor problems late, but, man, they gave me a super handling race car," Burton said somewhat wistfully. "I think we woulda had a shot at it, but the motor picked up a problem about 80 laps into the race. We kinda got unlucky with so many cautions coming, because I think I might've had a run at him if we'd had five, six or 10 more laps."

Not only was Earnhardt atop Dover's final race rundown, he is now at the head of the series standings as well. Matt Kenseth went from 84 points ahead of Earnhardt to 34 behind. Last year's series runner-up finished 32nd after getting caught up in a couple of accidents.

"I'm real, real happy about getting the points lead," Earnhardt said. "It's not under the circumstances I would rather have had. I'd rather be getting it out there racing Matt side by side, rather than him being in the garage area with some troubles. It's a shame.

"They've worked so hard to get to where they are. They've improved their motor program. They've improved their chassis program, and they're really one of the top-notch teams in the Busch Series. It's terrible to see them have such bad luck at one of his better race tracks."

Todd Bodine took 3rd from David Green coming off Turn 4 on the final lap. Trickle wound up 5th, while Kevin Grubb, Jeff Green, Dave Blaney, Elton Sawyer and Jason Keller rounded out the top-10.

It took Earnhardt 2 hours, 11 minutes and 24 seconds -- not counting a red-flag period lasting 16 minutes and 23 seconds -- to complete the event at an average speed of 91.324 mph. There were nine caution flags for a total of 48 laps, and just one lead change.

Dale Jr.'s post race comments: "We finally got to victory lane, so maybe we got the monkey off our back. We put a little point spread on 'em, so maybe we can go down to Homestead and win the championship again. First place is surely a relief compared to where we've been running. We're going to go home now and watch the truck race and drink some Budweiser.

"I hated to see Matt Kenseth have trouble. He's certainly a good race car driver. It's a shame to have to get points that way. I wanted to do it on the race track. I figured he'd be up there shortly, but I never saw him. Then I saw his car torn up. That's a shame for the whole crew. Those guys work hard. They've stepped their program up, and they're one of the better teams this year."

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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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