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Earnhardt Jr. on equal ground in the mountains
July 21, 1999 -By Marty Smith, NASCAR Online

FOUNTAIN, Colo. - The Myrtle Beach sand was supposed to bring relief to injured NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division point leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. last weekend, but after a disappointing 25th-place run in the Myrtle Beach 250, he was anything but relaxed. Now, he seeks refuge in a completely different climate -- namely the Rocky Mountains that surround Pikes Peak International Raceway, site of Saturday's NAPA AutoCare 250, the 20th race in the 32-event season.

Saturday, the 43-car field will make a second attempt at conquering PPIR in the NAPA AutoCare 250. "Lil' E" fared well at the one-mile oval in 1998, qualifying fifth and posting a 10th-place finish after leading a large portion of the race.

After the subpar outing at Myrtle Beach Speedway, his point lead over Matt Kenseth slipped to a mere 62 points -- about half of what it was heading into round 19. Thus, a good run Saturday is essential.

"We are putting last year behind us and are really looking forward to this race," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I messed up qualifying and then we had trouble during the race but the good thing is we are coming in here with a clean slate.

"The cool thing about Pikes Peak is that no one has any more experience here than I do. We're all on equal ground."

Prior to the breakdown at Myrtle Beach, Earnhardt Jr. had been simply phenomenal. He posted back-to-back runner-up finishes at Nazareth and Charlotte, then won three straight races at Dover, South Boston and Watkins Glen. Even the broken shoulder he suffered at Milwaukee in practice couldn't slow him down -- he drove to a third-place finish there.

Despite his recent success, this weekend's event at Pikes Peak presents an intriguing obstacle. The No. 3 ACDelco Chevrolet team must adjust to the unique climate -- the increased elevation makes breathing difficult, and alters the car's setup as well.

"The oxygen level is different here than at most tracks where we race at and you are a lot closer to the sun," said Tony Eury, Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief. "We definitely change our way of tuning the car to accommodate those climatic conditions."

When asked about his injured shoulder last weekend at Myrtle Beach, Earnhardt, Jr. performed a full-motion chicken wing movement, saying, "I'm 100 percent. It don't hurt a bit."

Pain or no pain, the shoulder couldn't hurt as bad as another 25th-place finish.

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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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