Feb. 17, 1999 Earnhardt takes momentum to Rockingham
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- As far as Dale Earnhardt is concerned, North Carolina Speedway is the
second step towards that elusive eighth championship.
The track is the site of Sunday's Dura-Lube/Big Kmart 400, the second race of the 34-event
Winston Cup Series schedule. Earnhardt has won at "The Rock" three times, in
1987, 1994 and 1996. His win in the fall race in 1994 clinched his seventh Winston Cup
title -- and he has spent the past four years trying to claim an eighth.
Certainly, his second-place finish in the Daytona 500 Sunday put him on solid ground for
the 1999 title -- but a bad finish at Rockingham could put a major dent in those hopes.
"Coming from half a lap down (at Daytona) to second place is tremendous," said
crew chief Kevin Hamlin. "We knew there was a problem and had Dale switch to the
back-up ignition. On the restart he took off and drove one of the best races I've ever
Earnhardt chased Jeff Gordon to the checkered flag in a frantic finish at Daytona.
"We didn't win, but I know we had the best driver out there and if he couldn't get
by, nobody else was going to either," said Hamlin.
Earnhardt's performaces at Rockingham in 1998 were atypical, to say the least. In the
first race there last year, he struggled to a 37th-place qualifying spot before finishing
17th. He then started the fall race 29th, charged ahead to lead seven laps, and ended up
"Qualifying hasn't been our strong point, but we hope to change that this year,"
said Earnhardt. "Starting in the back like we did got us in trouble more than once
last year. We need to get a good time in on Friday and secure a pit on the
Qualifying well is vital at Rockingham. In 64 Winston Cup race that have been run there,
only 18 drivers have won after starting worse than seventh.
Gordon has won three out of the last four races at Rockingham, including both events in
The 1999 season is the 30th for Richard Childress Racing. Childress started his career as
a driver in 1969, and achieved great success as a team owner in the 1980s. Earnhardt first
drove for him in 1981, then returned to the team in 1984. Even though Earnhardt has since
established his own Winston Cup team, he has stated his intention to finish his own
driving career with Childress.
Childress' cars have won six Winston Cup championships and one Craftsman Truck Series
championship. In 30 years, RCR has gone to victory lane 64 times in Winston Cup, with
Earnhardt and Ricky Rudd scoring the victories.
NASCAR Winston Cup Series
Feb. 14, 1999