Earnhardt hopes "third is the charm" By Dave Rodman TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 10, 1998) Dale Earnhardt jokingly said he was broke and needed the money, but the fact is, none of the drivers eligible for the Winston "No Bull 5" bonus in Sunday's...
Earnhardt hopes "third is the charm" By Dave Rodman
TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 10, 1998) Dale Earnhardt jokingly said he was broke and needed the money, but the fact is, none of the drivers eligible for the Winston "No Bull 5" bonus in Sunday's Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway would turn their noses up at the $1 million bonus.
Of course, they all have different perspectives on it. For Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, who rate one and two on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series career money won list, it rates quite a bit differently than it does to Jeremy Mayfield, who only won his first series race this season; or to Dale Jarrett or Jeff Burton, who have had success rates somewhere in between the high and low scale of the No Bull 5 hopefuls.
All kidding aside, Gordon -- whose feelings are tempered by already winning two $1 million bonuses already this season in his DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet and three total from RJR in little more than the last year -- said he had bigger goals to reach.
"This track can offer some great racing, and anything's possible, but you look at the five guys up here and they all have a great shot at winning it," Gordon said at a press conference to preview the Winston 500. "I'm happy I've won a race here at Talladega, but it's hard for me to say that's a priority on my list here this weekend. I'd like to just to be able to come out of here with a top-five. That would be great. I think if we're anywhere in that top-five, then we certainly have a shot at winning the million. We're running halfway decent."
Gordon is banking on padding his 174-point margin over Mark Martin in the standings, with only five races left in the season.
For the rest of the drivers involved in the No Bull 5, top-10 point positions are involved, yes, as they are all in that select group -- but to win this race and this bonus is probably more important at this stage of the season.
"I'm in debt," Earnhardt said, cracking his trademark wry smile. "I need some money. I need to pay some bills off. Jeff (Gordon) and I owe some money together on a piece of property. We borrowed some money and he's been making the payments. I'm behind. I'm in debt. You (Gordon) won't loan me none.
"Look out on Sunday if you're leading and I'm second!"
Of course, he was kidding ... But Earnhardt, who will have his third shot to win a No Bull 5 bonus this season in his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet, was serious about his chances after qualifying 14th. He previously finished fifth in the Brickyard 400 and fifth in the Pepsi Southern 500 when he had a shot at the million.
"Our chances are pretty good here," said Earnhardt, who is the all-time race victories leader at Talladega with seven wins. "Talladega is a race track where you can qualify in the top-40 and actually win the race if your car is good enough. You can come to the front in the draft and work on things on race setups."
That's what Mayfield is hoping, after an engine problem in qualifying relegated him to 24th in his Mobil 1 Ford, the furthest back a No Bull 5 eligible driver will come from on Sunday. Jarrett will start third in the Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford, while Burton will come from the ninth hole in the Exide Batteries Ford.
Gordon's biggest drawback to winning might be that he's never won a race in October or November in six years on the circuit.
"I think if we'd had the answer we would have won in October and November," he said. "I think the last few years we've been battling for a championship and rather than bring out new cars and more horsepower and take chances and risks, we've tried to get into that mode of 'let's bring a proven car that's worked well for us and let's bring an engine we feel like is going to be there all the way through.' It's not stroking. It's winning the championship.
"It didn't work in '96. It seems like other guys have brought out new cars and everything they could at the end of the season. That's kind of our plan this year. We had a fairly new car at Charlotte last weekend, and it seemed to work better for us. This car is not a new car, but it's a good car. I don't know if we have the answers for that. We've got to wait for these next few races. We are bringing a new car to Phoenix and hope we see the results we're looking for. We want to win a race in October and November right now as bad as anybody else, especially as well as Mark is running. We can't afford to not run well and not bring the best stuff we can or he's going to wear us out."
But right now, Gordon -- or for that matter Earnhardt, Burton, Jarrett or Mayfield -- wants to wear out Winston's bank account.
Source: NASCAR Online