Earnhardt History
1988 Season
'The Man in Black' is born

1988 Season

Races 29
Wins 3
Top 5's 13
Top 10's 19
Points Pos. 3
Crew Chief:
Kirk Shelmerdine
Car Owner:
Richard Childress
Car Make:
Chevy Monte Carlo
Car No: 3
Sponsor: GM Goodwrench

 

 

After seeing a single-season record for total winnings at more than two million dollars for the NASCAR Winston Cup champion, Dale Earnhardt and car owner Richard Childress were celebrated in New York City.  And following the NASCAR Winston Cup awards banquet was the perfect end to a perfect season: a champagne party to end all parties!    After all the speeches, awards, and mandatory appearances at the post-event cocktail parties had been completed, Earnhardt, Childress, and their championship team retired to their suite at the Waldorf-Astoria for a few hours of sleep before heading to the airport for the return trip back south.

Earnhardt and Childress had earned their champagne.  With 11 victories during the year, they had far outdistanced their nearest competitor.  In fact, it was the earliest a team had locked up a title in a decade.

With Wrangler Jeans no longer a sponsor, the Childress team's car were now painted black and sported sponsorship from GM Goodwrench.   With his new sponsor in hand, Dale appeared headed for a third-consecutive championship, looking nearly unbeatable the first third of the season.  He won at Atlanta and again at Martinsville and led the points race following Dover.   Earnhardt's toughest competitor seemed to be Rusty Wallace, whose Blue Max team was the first to figure out the new, needle-nosed Pontiac Grand Prix.  Wallace had yet to win, but strong performances put him just 16 points behind Earnhardt as the teams headed for the last race ever to be run at Riverside.

Wallace broke through there, winning the Budweiser 400 and taking a four-point lead over Earnhardt.   Elliott also would surpass Dale in the points standing after a strong late season charge.  Elliott won the title, followed by Wallace.

Earnhardt's valiant effort to become the second driver in history to win three consecutive championships failed in the pressure-packed run to the championship.  He was in third place, 232 points behind Elliott at the conclusion of the season and had won just three times.  Although most teams would have been happy with 13 top-fives and $1.2 million in winnings, it was a disappointment for Earnhardt and his car owner.  Both spent a great deal of time during the winter preparing to make a more successful run at the championship the following season.

 



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