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News The Earnhardt Connection
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Earnhardt thrills fans with competitive run
Jim Utter
Long Pond, Pennsylvania (July 26, 1998)

This was what Dale Earnhardt's fans have been searching for since his win in the season-opening Daytona 500.

There was the 47-year-old seven-time Winston Cup champion Sunday going nose-to-nose with Dale Jarrett and bumping Jeff Gordon out of the way during the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono International Raceway.

Fans were on their feet most of the afternoon as Earnhardt -- who's been plagued with some bad performances, crew chief changes and bad luck since his Daytona win in February -- once again looked the dominating racer so many have come to love or hate.

Earnhardt finished seventh, his best performance since a fourth-place finish at Martinsville, Va., in April.

Though Earnhardt didn't talk much about his day -- he said he was disappointed in the finish and thought he could at least have finished second to Gordon -- driver after driver Sunday said they saw something in the man known as ``The Intimidator'' they hadn't seen in awhile.

"It was a lot of fun out there," said Gordon, who was bumped from behind and out of the way while Earnhardt made a move in the race for the lead. "You're trying to figure out where's a good place to pass Dale Earnhardt at Pocono and I don't think there is one. The only opportunity I had, I took it.

"I got underneath him and I was just waiting for the classic move he makes here. Any time you ever pass him where he slams on the brakes and gets right back on your bumper, gets you loose and either gets underneath you or gets on you going into the next turn. That's what he did."

Gordon said Earnhardt stayed right on his bumper.

"He got me a little loose. I think he even drove deeper than he was expecting. I think he bumped me a little bit. From what I could see from my rear bumper, he went all the way up the track, too. I was a little upset at the time. But it wasn't worth it."

Earnhardt thought his car got better as the race went on.

"We kept adjusting and got pretty good," he said. "I got into (Gordon) and when I got into him I got on the brakes and lost it myself. It was lucky both of us didn't wreck."

Gordon knew the battle between himself and Earnhardt was a treat for the fans.

"I know the fans are probably loving it," he said. "For a driver, you want to get by a guy and go on. But I think you know that Dale is just not one of those guys you're going to get by, especially when he's running good, and he was running good enough today to make that move stick and get back on my rear bumper."

Jarrett also had several battles with Earnhardt Sunday, but said he was glad to see Earnhardt battling so hard.

"He was awful racy, but that's good to see," Jarrett said. "He was messing with everybody a little bit, so the old Earnhardt was back. But that's good. That's what we need."