Earnhardt, Labonte to hit 600 at Dover DOVER, Del. (Sept. 17, 1998) When Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte take the green flag for this Sunday's MBNA Gold 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway, it will mark a major milestone for a pair ...
Earnhardt, Labonte to hit 600 at Dover
DOVER, Del. (Sept. 17, 1998) When Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte take the green flag for this Sunday's MBNA Gold 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway, it will mark a major milestone for a pair of NASCAR Winston Cup Series champions. Both will be starting their 600th series race.
Earnhardt has seven series championships and 71 victories to his credit. Labonte, meanwhile, has two titles and 20 wins. Earnhardt beat out Labonte for NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year honors in 1979, n
Driving from Homestead to Sears Point 68 times.
To reach 193,154 miles at Bristol Motor Speedway, one would have to make 360,390 laps at the half-mile oval. At 20 seconds a lap it would take 2013 hours or 83 days.
Earnhardt and Labonte are tied for 10th in all-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series starts category. With starts in the next three races they will move past James Hylton for ninth.
Since beginning his record-breaking career in 1979, Earnhardt has only missed four races on the schedule. Those came in 1979, when he was involved in an accident at Pocono Raceway, injuring his leg bad enough to keep him out of the race car for those four events. He has started every race since then, and is second in consecutive starts with 571.
While Labonte is saving his words and celebrations for his 600th consecutive start (Phoenix on Oct. 25 if he stays on schedule), Earnhardt spoke of the achievement he shares with Labonte.
"It sneaks up on you," Earnhardt said. "You go from track to track and season to season just thinking about racing and don't really look at the numbers. Then one day they tell you you're about to reach 600 starts and realize it is a pretty big accomplishment. There haven't been many drivers that have reached this plateau. Four out of the top 10 are still racing today. I think that says a lot for NASCAR and its safety programs. The drivers are able to compete week in and week out and avoid injuries.
"The sport has changed tremendously over the years and the competition is the best it's ever been. Each week the field gets closer and closer when it comes to qualifying. When we started this tour 20 years ago, there was a couple of seconds between first and 40th, now it's down to hundredths of a second."
Earnhardt's car owner, Richard Childress, says the monumental achievement will mean a lot to him, too.
"I've been fortunate to be a big part of Dale's career," Childress said. "Together I think we've accomplished more than either of us ever could have imagined. It's been 15 years, six championships and many trips to Victory Lane. I'm proud to be associated with him professionally, but even prouder to call him my friend."
Source: NASCAR Online