Earnhardt leads NASCAR sweep in IROC By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 18, 2000) Dale Earnhardt won his 34th career race at Daytona International Speedway Friday afternoon in a classic drafting battle in the opening round of True Value ...
Earnhardt leads NASCAR sweep in IROC By Dave Rodman
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 18, 2000) Dale Earnhardt won his 34th career race at Daytona International Speedway Friday afternoon in a classic drafting battle in the opening round of True Value International Race of Champions XXIV. Earnhardt won his sixth IROC race at Daytona after starting on the pole, dropping back to 10th and driving back to take the lead after 27 of 40 laps had been run. Earnhardt, who previously won IROC events at DIS in 1992, 1994-96 and 1999, took the lead for the final time coming off Turn 2 on the final lap, taking advantage of a push in the draft from fellow NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers Tony Stewart and his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt held off Stewart by .124-second at the line. He averaged 181.178 mph for 33 minutes and seven seconds. Jeff Burton finished third, Mark Martin was fourth and Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-5 as NASCAR drivers took the top-8 positions. Rusty Wallace, Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarrett finished sixth through eighth.
"It's been an awesome day," said Earnhardt, acknowledging the fact that no one had been seriously injured in a wreck in the earlier NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. "The IROC series is a great series. It's a good job by Jay (Signore, IROC president) and the guys to make these cars so equal.
"It was a great race when you could go from the front to the back and back to the front again."
Earnhardt, the acknowledged master of Daytona, is the track's career victories leader with more than double anyone else's total. He said he used that legacy to score on Friday and open defense of his IROC title. A year ago, he won the first three IROC rounds on his way to the championship.
"I saw Jeff Burton lining up with Martin and I knew he was gonna come up there," Earnhardt said, "but experience prevailed. He did it a lap too soon and gave me a chance to get some help from Stewart and Dale Jr. and take the lead coming off two.
"It was a good day for us. I'm exciting about racing and excited about winning again."
The race had 12 lead changes among five drivers. Near the end it settled down to Earnhardt leading Wallace and Burton, with a slight gap back to a pack that included defending Northern Light Indy Racing League champion Greg Ray.
With six laps to go, Wallace pulled out on the backstretch to make a run at Earnhardt and he fell all the way back to seventh. He never recovered. With three laps to go, Stewart drove to the inside of Ray and took Earnhardt Jr. with him.
At the white flag, Burton had help from Martin, but Stewart pulled back up behind Earnhardt at the start/finish line and "Little E" followed the 1999 Raybestos Rookie of the Year. The train pushed Earnhardt out front on the outside groove and the race, for all intents and purposes, was over.