Dale comes home 2nd in
Dale Earnhardt made up some ground in
the points after finishing in second, a half-second behind winner Tony Stewart, in
Sunday's NAPA 500 in Martinsville. Dale was able to gain 36 points on Labonte, who
finished tenth despite being involved in a collision on pit road that damaged his Pontiac
and another spin late in the race off Turn 4 in which he looped the car but never hit the
wall. Labonte's lead over Earnhardt was cut to 213 points with six races remaining now.
In the race,
Earnhardt's car was strong on long green flag runs. During one long run just past Lap 100,
Dale moved from 7th to 3rd in less than five laps. When the caution came out on lap 111,
Dale pitted and came out of the pits in second. He ran in the top-5 almost constantly from
there to the finish.
Labonte got the worst of one pit-road incident, suffering damage to the right-front of his
Pontiac on a caution around the Lap 285 mark. Johnny Benson had to stop in the pit road
curve in Turn 1 when Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt pulled out of their pit stalls. Traffic
stacked up behind Benson and Labonte's car was damaged.
Later, following the restart with 29 laps left, Stewart went low in turns 3 and 4 and
worked his way into the lead by Lap 474. Meanwhile Earnhardt banged his way up to second
place by Lap 476, with Burton coming to third right behind him.
Labonte got spun by Mike Skinner coming off Turn 4 on Lap 479 but kept his car off the
wall and only fell from ninth to 10th. In Turn 1 of the next lap, however, traffic stacked
up and Dale Earnhardt Jr. got the worst of it, slamming the outside wall in his Chevrolet.
The green came out again on
Lap 490, leaving just 11 laps to decide the winner.
Stewart got a good jump on the restart and kept a car length between his Pontiac and
Earnhardt's Chevrolet the first time around. Stewart built that led to about a half-second
with five laps left, while Burton nipped at Earnhardt from behind trying to get up to
There was no change for position, however, and Stewart held on to win for the first time
in his career at Martinsville.
"Our car was pretty good at times and we were off at times," said Earnhardt.
"We had a good race car, though. I've got to congratulate Tony Stewart. He drove his
butt off. Me and Jeff Burton were having a pretty good show behind him there. We raced
awful hard. He got into me one time, but he let me go. It was a good race. I gained some
points on everybody so that was good. We've got to get all we can and finish as high as we
"The car was a little off from what it had been in the past here. We adjusted on the
setup a little bit from what I ran here in the spring. It was a better setup but still a
little bit off from what I wanted it to be. I was a little slow in the center of the
corners. It showed there on the last run trying to catch Tony. Then Burton got into me
just a little bit in three and four. It was just a little bump. It wasn't a big deal.
Traffic was a bear all day. We raced hard and raced all day long. It was just a
"It's a tough race track to win on. It's a tough race track to race on. It looked
like Stewart and Burton had the best cars. Rudd got in there. I felt like I was a fourth-
or fifth-place car. On that last stop, we got after it and did the best we could. I think
we're all getting better at this track. Second is not bad but we'd like to have a win.
Gaining points is what we're out to do. Now we just have to have some good luck at
Charlotte. I don't wish anybody any bad luck but somebody's got to have some."
passes on passing Earnhardt after late contact
keeping Labonte in title sights
Dale qualifies 12th in Martinsville_9/29
Dale Earnhardt qualified 12th on Friday
at Martinsville Speedway.
---- `Anything can happen,' Earnhardt says ----
Time is running out for Dale Earnhardt in his quest for a record eighth Winston Cup title.
Heading into Sunday's NAPA Auto Care 500 in Martinsville, Va., the 49-year-old Earnhardt
is in second place, but trails leader Bobby Labonte by 249 points.
Still, The Intimidator isn't ready to concede anything with seven races remaining. This is
the 12th time he has battled to the end of the season for a title, and has finished second
In 1995, Earnhardt trailed Jeff Gordon by 309 points with seven races remaining. He came
up short, but lost by just 34 points.
"Anything can happen," Earnhardt said. "We need to capitalize when the
opportunities are presented. It can be done. We lost 175 in three races during the summer.
Experience and opportunity are the two key things down the final stretch."
Experience he has. Earnhardt has won a total of 24 races at six of the seven tracks
remaining on the schedule. Homestead, Fla., which came on the schedule in 1999, is the
only track at which he has not taken a checkered flag.