Earnhardt shines, finishes 5th in Michigan
Full Report -- Aug. 22
Dale Earnhardt started the Pepsi 400 from 38th position. On lap 10, he was 22nd, and
continuing to move forward.
It took just sixty laps for Earnhardt to make his way into contention, as the seven-time
Winston Cup Series champion smoothly worked his way through traffic and two cautions to
gain twelfth place.
Dale broke into the top-10 soon after. But as was the case most of the day, Earnhardt's
car was good for about 20 laps after a pit stop. After 20 laps, the car would get tight
off of the corners. Dale fell back out of the top-10 because his car got tight. Changes
during a pit stop helped the handling problem some, but didn't cure it.
He battled Rusty Wallace for the next 80 laps until the fourth caution, when he jumped
into third after the restart behind Tony Stewart and Gordon.
Dale shot by Stewart for the lead with 54 laps to go.
A caution came out after Dale had led for a few laps. The field made its final scheduled
pit stops of the day. Earnhardt took four tires and fuel and exited the pits in 8th
position. Mark Martin took only 2 tires and exited the pits in first position.
On the restart Earnhardt began moving back forward. Within a few laps Dale moved around
Mark Martin and into the lead. Then came the final caution after Tony Stewart sent Jeff
Burton spinning into the wall on the frontstretch. No pit stops occurred among the leaders
during the caution. Earnhardt led the field to the restart with 33 laps to go. He led
unchallenged for a few more laps before Jeff Gordon moved up to contest with him for the
lead at 30 laps to go.
Earnhardt and Gordon then began an exciting battle that had the all of the fans on their
feet. Gordon was trying to pass Earnhardt in every groove possible.
On lap 176, Gordon finally got by the seven-time series champion in turn 2, but Earnhardt
charged back in front in three and four.
On lap 178, Labonte entered the fight, challenging Gordon for second. While the two raced
side-by-side, Earnhardt briefly began to pull away.
But two laps later, the three locked up nose-to-tail with Gordon again trying every line
he could to get by Earnhardt. Gordon led laps 181 and 182, but each time, Earnhardt led a
portion of the lap.
Though the lead officially changed hands only three times, the three swapped it several
times during some of the most thrilling racing of the year.
Unfortunately, Earnhardt's car started to get tight, as it had done all day after about 20
laps into a run. On lap 183, Labonte pulled alongside Earnhardt in Turn 4, edged ahead of
him at the strip and went three-wide past him and Gordon into Turn 1.
Once Labonte had the lead, he was off to his fourth win of the season.
After Dale lost the lead, he drifted back further, with his car pushing off the corners.
On the last lap, Dale battled with Chad Little, trying to hold on to the fifth position.
Earnhardt got the spot by just a car length.
After the race, Labonte and Gordon commented on their battle involving Earnhardt.
"We just kept on trying them," Labonte said. "Jeff and Dale were awfully
strong and I couldn't get by 'em. Finally, Jeff and Dale got together there and I got a
run on them. When I got by them, I just took off. Once I got by 'em, clean air was the
"You just can't pass Earnhardt running like that," Gordon said. "He is the
toughest guy out there to pass. I hate that Bobby got past us. I couldn't pass him and
Even though he couldn't hold on for the win, Earnhardt's run in the Pepsi 400 was quite
promising, especially considering he started 38th.
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte
"We had a great tire today. It turned. It was a
consistent tire. It didn't go away. We just had the car set up too tight on long runs. It
would go to pushing in the center. I could beat them for awhile and it would go to getting
tighter and tighter. We adjusted on it several times and got it better, but we just needed
a little more there for the end. I wish we could have had a caution with about 15 to go.
We could have got some stickers on and wore their butt out.
"The car would really work pretty much anywhere. It
would get tighter and tighter as the run would go, and that's the way it had done all day.
I want to thank Goodyear and Goodwrench and all of the guys. Richard Childress and all the
guys did a good job. This is a brand new car and we didn't qualify that well with it.
Coming back from as far as we did and running fifth was OK. We would have liked to run a
"I was having a good time, but my time ran out. My
tires tightened up. I'd like to have been there at the end. The tires are great. These
guys worked awful hard to do that (come back from so far down). That's a lot of team
effort to adjust on the car today and come back from back there.
"It was close out there (racing with the 18 and 24),
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 it. We just needed a better
"This car was built brand new and we came up here and
tried everything we could to get all the downforce we could on the car. It seemed to have
more drag down the straightaway, but it was better in the corner than I've had yet. As we
went, it got a little better, but the longer the run, I was just on the tight side all the
time and it just got worse and worse on longer runs. We started pushing the front end.
"We tried to gain on pit stops and adjust and beat
them anywhere we could."
Earnhardt's aggressive style makes the
finish an exciting ride Aug. 22
The jam-packed grandstands rumbled and shook with more than 100,000 strong pumping
the fist of victory at ol' 3 Black as he thundered into the lead with under 50 laps to go.
The throng refused to turn away from the two-mile oval at Michigan Speedway because
it knew anything could happen when Dale Earnhardt in the black Goodwrench Chevrolet
entered the fray. Full Story.
Earnhardt finding groove again 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. Full Story.
Earnhardt to start 38th in Michigan Aug. 21
Dale Earnhardt qualified 35th on Friday in first-round qualifying for the Pepsi 400
in Michigan. On Saturday, he took a provisional to make it into the field, and will start
Sunday's race from the 38th position. This is the first time that Earnhardt has failed to
make the field during first-round qualifying since he qualified 34th in the MBNA 400 at
Dover, nine races ago.