DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Feb. 16, 2002) - In a performance reminiscent of his Pepsi 400 victory, Dale Earnhardt Jr. captured Saturday's EAS/GNC Live Well 300 Busch Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Earnhardt Jr. dominated the 120-lap,...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Feb. 16, 2002) - In a performance reminiscent of his Pepsi 400 victory, Dale Earnhardt Jr. captured Saturday's EAS/GNC Live Well 300 Busch Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Earnhardt Jr. dominated the 120-lap, 300-mile event and held off his Winston Cup teammate Michael Waltrip in a final 15-lap shootout. It's the third straight time that Earnhardt Jr. and Waltrip have finished in the top two when they've raced together at Daytona.
In the 2001 Daytona 500, Waltrip took the victory with Earnhardt Jr. finishing second. In the Pepsi 400, Earnhardt Jr. took the victory with Waltrip finishing second. In Saturday's Busch Series season opener, Earnhardt Jr. once again thwarted Waltrip for the victory and turned a couple of doughnuts with his No. 3 Oreo Chevrolet in the tri-oval grass to the fans delight.
"I'm sure (Michael) was having a tough time between teammate, friendship buddies and trying to win," said Earnhardt Jr., who has a 1.66 average finish in six of his 10 races at Daytona. "That's his own program and he has to go out and try to win the race for those guys and I expected that."
Earnhardt Jr. is making a return to the Busch Series this year with the No. 3 Chevrolet, which is being fielded in a joint effort by Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Richard Childress Racing and sponsored by Nabisco.
After winning two Busch Series championships in 1998 and 1999, Earnhardt Jr. had only competed one Busch Series race since. He enjoyed tackling the high banks of Daytona with some of his old Busch Series buddies.
"I had a lot of fun and that's what this is for, just for a good time," Earnhardt Jr. said.
Said owner Richard Childress: "Right now, it's great. I'm just so happy of everybody that got in behind this program and made it worked. Nothing I like better than to see him win in the No. 3 car and my dream came true today." Finishing behind Earnhardt Jr. and Waltrip were Matt Kenseth, Jason Keller and rookie Shane Hmiel.
"Our race was pretty adventuresome," Waltrip said. "We got a lap down, we almost made it up, then we finally got a break. Junior had a really fast car. He got behind me and pushed me around the No. 59 (Stacy Compton). That was a big deal for us to get the lap back. I knew once we got our lap back we could get back to the front. But we just didn't have enough for Junior."
Earnhardt Jr., who finished second earlier this week in the Budweiser Shootout and the Gatorade 125's, will hope to continue his trend of success at the famed 2.5-mile tri-oval in Sunday's 44th annual Daytona 500.
"I hope it's an omen," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I've run first or second in the last six races I've run at Daytona so I've got a good track record going. I want to win the Daytona 500. We'll take what we can get."