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Blk3GM's Winston Cup News

RICHMOND, VA (April 9, 1999)
Budweiser and Dale Earnhardt, Inc. officials announced in St. Louis today that defending NASCAR Busch Series Champion, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will enter Richmond International Raceway's September 11 Winston Cup EXIDE NASCAR SELECT BATTERIES 400 in a Budweiser liveried car #8 fielded by DEI. That announcement evoked instant memories from Richmond track president, Paul Sawyer.

Should the 3rd generation NASCAR star make the Richmond Winston Cup field, it will mark the 54th time the number 8 has competed in a Richmond Winston Cup race. Ironically, 1999 marks the 54th season of racing at the Richmond site, dating to 1946 perhaps a favorable omen for 7-time Champion, Dale Earnhardt's son in his RIR Winston Cup debut.

"How I remember that #8," reminisced Sawyer. "I think everyone knows the Earnhardt family history of that car number. Of course, Dale, Jr.'s grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt made the number famous on Carolinas dirt tracks enroute to his 1956 NASCAR Sportsman Division National Championship. Then along came Dale with the same number on his Late Models.

"But, what I remember most about #8," said Norfolk, Virginia native Sawyer, "Is that my buddy, best friend and business partner, Joe Weatherly ran the #8 on his cars. He won two NASCAR Winston Cup Championships for car owner Bud Moore carrying #8."

What Sawyer didn't say, is that Weatherly, another Norfolk native, and Spartanburg, S.C.'s Moore combined to give the #8 far and away the most famous rides at Richmond of any Winston Cup car to ever carry that number and 13 different drivers have appeared in 53 Richmond Winston Cup races to date with the #8 festooned on their doors and roof.

Of course Weatherly may have had an advantage over the other #8 drivers at Richmond. He was AMA motorcycle National Champion and NASCAR Modified Division National champion who had already won at the old half-mile dirt Richmond layout on two wheels and four before he ever made his Richmond Winston Cup debut.

In just 5 Richmond Winston Cup appearances together from 1961-1963, Weatherly, racing's "Clown Prince", and the affable Moore scored 3 wins, 4 top-5's and a pole position with their #8 mounts. The 3 wins came in Pontiacs and the lone pole in a Mercury. Weatherly's September 8, 1963 Richmond pole marked his last visit to Paul Sawyer's track prior to the superstar's untimely death in Moore's #8 at Riverside, California in January, 1964. Moore would win many more races in a storied career as an owner, but his cars would never again bear #8. Ironically, in another twist of fate, Earnhardt, Jr.'s famous dad would score his breakthrough Darlington and Talladega superspeedway wins driving Bud Moore owned cars to victory lane.

The very first Winston Cup #8 to appear at Richmond was a 1951 Hudson Hornet driven by Chesapeake, Ohio's Gene Comstock on April 19, 1953 in Richmond's first Cup race. Kelso, Washington's Ed Negre started the most Richmond races in #8, a total of 18 from 1968-1978. Midland, Texas driver, Bobby Hillin, Jr. is 2nd with 12 Winston Cup #8 Richmond starts. In fact, Hillin has a #8 car entered at Richmond on May 14, but it is his Busch Series Grand National entry in the HARDEE'S 250.

The last time Winston Cup car #8 competed at Richmond was in September 1997, when Hut Stricklin campaigned the Stavolas brothers Ford. In between, such drivers as Billy Carden, Elmo Langley, Larry Manning, Dick May, Rick Wilson, Dick Trickle, Sterling Marlin and current Winston Cup points leader, Jeff Burton of South Boston, Virginia have all driven #8 at Richmond.

Young Earnhardt, Jr. is following in some famous footsteps when he climbs aboard Winston Cup #8. His sleek, fireproof, state-of-the-art driving shoes may differ significantly from Weatherly's black & white saddle oxfords, but the winner of Richmond's September 1998 AUTOLITE PLATINUM 250 Busch Series race hopes his Richmond results in Winston Cup #8 will parallel Weatherly's success at Paul Sawyer's Richmond venue. You can bet Sawyer will be watching the young hotshoe closely.

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