MOORESVILLE, N.C. (October 17, 2000) - One of the premier families in American motorsports - the Earnhardts - have joined forces with America's performance icon - the Chevrolet Corvette - to compete in next year's 'Rolex 24 at Daytona' ...
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (October 17, 2000) - One of the premier families in American motorsports - the Earnhardts - have joined forces with America's performance icon - the Chevrolet Corvette - to compete in next year's 'Rolex 24 at Daytona' sports-car race at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 3-4, 2001. Corvette Racing officials announced today that seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt and his son, two-time NASCAR Busch Grand National champ and current Winston Cup Rookie of the Year contender, Dale Earnhardt Jr., will team with Corvette driver Andy Pilgrim in the #3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Corvette C5-R in next year's 'Rolex 24 at Daytona.' For one race weekend next year, father and son will be sharing the same seat instead of trading paint.
"We're pleased to have the Earnhardts join Team Corvette for the Rolex 24 at Daytona," said Rick Baldick, Corvette brand manager. "It's fitting that two American icons join forces for America's premier endurance race. "Speedweeks will be a family affair for both Chevrolet and the Earnhardts, starting out with the Corvettes and finishing with the Monte Carlos in the Daytona 500." The Corvette C5-R marks General Motors' first "official" factory effort in sports-car racing. It made its debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 1999 where it led its class for more than half the race and claimed a third-place finish.
"I've had a lot of success in the Monte Carlo throughout my career and I hope to have a lot more," Earnhardt said. "I wanted to drive the Corvette for different reasons though. I've always looked at that type of racing, and more importantly that type of car, and wondered what it would be like to run an endurance race. In our world, an endurance race is four or five hours so the challenge of a 24-hour event is especially interesting to me.
"As for the car, it's proven itself in a really short amount of time and proven that the Corvette is a world-class car both in racing and on the street. I'm looking forward to the event and working with Andy. It's a race we're running to win, but we're also running to have fun. It's an opportunity that I had to take and I'm grateful to Chevrolet for putting it all together."
In 1999, Corvette C5-Rs posted four podium finishes in six starts. This year's Daytona race was one for the history books and produced the closest finish ever in the 24-hour classic. After 24 grueling hours, the #3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Corvette C5-R finished second overall, less than 31 seconds behind the race winner. Corvette again became part of the rich history and tradition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and took the challenge in 2000 to prove its "global" expertise in automotive engineering and design, entering two Corvette C5-Rs in the legendary 24-hour race on June 17-18. Both Corvettes stayed in the hunt throughout the twice-around-the-clock marathon with the #64 C5-R grabbing a podium finish with its third-place result. The #63 C5-R was next in line in fourth place.
On Sept. 2, battling triple-digit temperatures as well as an old nemesis, Corvette drivers Ron Fellows and Andy Pilgrim paired for the Grand Prix of Texas and claimed the first victory for the Corvette C5-R. The #3 Corvette C5-R lead the majority of the 2-hour, 45-minute American Le Mans Series race and bested their main rival, the Team Oreca Vipers.
Team Corvette made it two in a row with a stirring win in the American Le Mans Series' premier race, the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. After racing nearly 1,000 miles and a little over 9 hours, it took a daring pass of the #92 Dodge Viper by Andy Pilgrim in the #4 Corvette C5-R to claim the victory.
The class win earned Corvette an exemption from pre-qualifying for next year's 24 Hours of Le Mans and an invitation to the 69th running of this historic sports-car race.
As a racer, Dale Earnhardt has few equals. The driver of the famous #3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet Monte Carlo is vying for an unprecedented eighth NASCAR Winston Cup championship this year. Dale currently sits second in the points standings with two wins and 22 top-10 finishes, including a thrilling victory this past weekend at Talladega Motor Speedway. He has 76 career Winston Cup wins and was the first in history to win both rookie of the year and series championship honors in NASCAR Winston Cup.
Dale Jr. seems to have no problem living up to the family name. The 1998 & 1999 NASCAR Busch Grand National champion already has two Winston Cup wins under his belt in the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo driving for his car owner/father at Dale Earnhardt Incorporated (DEI). He is in a tight battle for rookie of the year honors with Matt Kenseth who also has a win in his first year. "I enjoy driving my Corvettes on the street and I like watching the touring cars so this is going to be a blast," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Our Winston Cup Monte Carlos are a good bit heavier, have less tire, less braking ability and less downforce, so there's obviously going to be a huge difference in the way the two drive. I understand the Corvette is extremely balanced and it absolutely sticks in a corner, so I've got to learn a little in terms of finesse. "I always enjoy meeting new people. I'm looking forward to the experience of being in a different world than we're used to. I've heard nothing but good things about Andy, so I'm sure he's going to teach us a lot and become a good friend to both my father and me. I'm just looking forward to the whole experience."
The Earnhardts have four races remaining on their 34-race Winston Cup schedule this season, and the Corvette Racing team closes out its 2000 race season with the Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 29.