Earnhardt finding groove again
By Angelique S. Chengelis / The Detroit News
Earnhardt leads the pack heading into turn four at Michigan Speedway, but he wound up in
Brooklyn, MI (Aug. 22,
While Dale Earnhardt was leading late in the
Pepsi 400, his team owner, Richard Childress, couldn't help but think he would be making a
trip to Victory Lane.
"I was getting cold chills," Childress said.
Earnhardt led twice for 26 laps in Sunday's race at Michigan Speedway, but on lap 181, he
lost the lead to Jeff Gordon and eventually fell back to fifth, where he finished. It was
another statement race for Earnhardt, 48, winner of seven NASCAR Winston Cup titles, and
he has been making plenty of them the last two months.
His finish Sunday was even more impressive considering he started 38th. It was his sixth
top-10 finish in the last eight races. He won earlier this season at Talladega and has
finished second twice in both races at Daytona. He remains seventh in the standings.
"He can do it," Childress said. "He is as good as ever; we just have to get
the car where it can turn for him, and we've struggled with that. I ain't never going to
give up on him, and if anybody does, they're losing their money, because we're going to be
up there for that championship if we keep getting runs like this and keep the
Earnhardt looked strong in the lead, which he took for the second time on lap 158. After
losing the lead to Gordon, Earnhardt stayed in the mix, racing for a top-five position on
the final laps.
He was ecstatic when he climbed out of his Goodwrench Chevrolet.
"That's the kind of racing Dale Earnhardt wants to do," Earnhardt said, beaming.
It was the first time all weekend he looked happy. The team brought a new car to Michigan,
and he found it to be handling poorly during practice and qualifying. He failed to qualify
for the race and had to take a provisional to make the starting field.
The tire Goodyear introduced for the race was to his liking, however. Earnhardt's crew
made adjustments to the car each pit stop, but he found the car developed an understeer or
push as the tires wore. That prevented him from making a run for the victory in the final
"I wish we could have had a caution with about 15 (laps) to go," said Earnhardt,
a seven-time Winston Cup champion who has not won since the 1998 season-opening Daytona
500. "We could have got some (new tires) on and wore their butts out. I was having a
good time, but my time ran out. My tires tightened up. I'd like to have been there at the
"It was close out there (racing with Bobby Labonte and Gordon), but it was just good
racing. That's what I was enjoying. That's what they've been doing and I haven't been
getting any of it. This time I got some of fit. We just needed a better finish."
It was Earnhardt's best finish at Michigan since placing seventh in June 1997. He has not
won here since 1990.