Earnhardt wants to please 'home' crowd
Oct. 6, 1999 - By Brett Borden, NASCAR Online
That old black magic is back. But he's usually charging to the front.
Dale Earnhardt has done more passing lately than Dan Marino and Brett Favre combined. As a result, the driver of the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet has pulled off some amazing charges in the last seven races.
In the Pepsi 400 at Michigan, Earnhardt started 38th and finished fifth.
In the Goody's Headache Powder 500 at Bristol, he started 26th and won his second race of the year.
In the Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400 at Richmond, he started 33rd and finished sixth.
In the MBNA Gold 400, he started 37th and finished eighth.
In the NAPA AutoCare 500 at Martinsville, he started 38th and finished second to Jeff Gordon.
Earnhardt has gained at least 14 positions from start to finish an amazing 14 times this year. At tracks around the country, the loudest cheers are usually reserved for a pass by the Intimidator on the track. But nowhere are those cheers louder than at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the outskirts of Charlotte. This is Earnhardt country, and the seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion knows it.
"We're at home and you always want to do good in front of your hometown crowd," Earnhardt said. "We're coming off a good run last weekend and plan on bringing that momentum to Charlotte.
"There aren't many laps left and we need to make the most of every one of them. Of the six tracks left on the schedule we've won at five of those. Our plan is to finish strong and gain as many spots towards the top as possible."
Earnhardt has gone to Victory Lane a combined total of 11 times at Lowe's Motor Speedway. That includes five NASCAR Winston Cup Series wins, three NASCAR Busch Series victories, and three checkered flags in The Winston all-star event. He finished sixth in the Coca-Cola 600 earlier this year at LMS.
"Charlotte has a way of bringing out the best in Dale Earnhardt," said Kevin Hamlin, Earnhardt's crew chief. "I remember watching him a couple of years ago starting from the back and by Lap 25 he was in the top-10 and finished second to Martin. That just doesn't happen. He was on it and when he's on it nobody can touch him."
His penchant for starting in the back and finishing at or near the front was never more evident than in this race four years ago. Earnhardt started 43rd that day, drove through traffic and finished second to only Mark Martin.
According to car owner Richard Childress, the last half dozen races of the year bring out the best in his driver.
"This is a favorite time for me," Childress said. "It's this time in the season when the veteran experience comes out in Dale. He knows how many races are left and knows how many points he needs to gain. I think between Charlotte, Talladega, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Rockingham he has 25 wins and holds the record at both Atlanta and Talladega. This will be fun to watch as we come down to the final stretch."
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