Earnhardt cream of the crop in IROC By Brett Borden DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 1999) Four-time series champion Mark Martin had nothing but the finish line ahead of him coming off the last turn in Round One of the 1999 True Value International...
Earnhardt cream of the crop in IROC By Brett Borden
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 1999) Four-time series champion Mark Martin had nothing but the finish line ahead of him coming off the last turn in Round One of the 1999 True Value International Race of Champions. Unfortunately, he had Dale Earnhardt's cream-colored car in his rear view mirror, and that's a very bad omen at Daytona International Speedway.
Earnhardt, with help from Bobby Labonte, used a slingshot move to pass Martin in the run off turn four to the flag for his fifth IROC checkered flag at Daytona and eighth overall. It was Earnhardt's 33rd win at Daytona in his career.
"It's my favorite race track," said Earnhardt, who averaged 181.178 mph for 33 minutes and seven seconds. "When Bobby got in there with us, we started working together and we came to the front. Once we got to Mark, we just settled in there and ran our race and counted the laps off.
"I tried him (Martin) off turn two but couldn't do it there. He blocked me and I got a good run going into three. I got in real tight on him, down on the bottom and tried to scoot up on him. About that time, he was trying to keep down and we bumped a little bit and that made a little room. Then Bobby and I pushed by him. If it wasn't for Bobby, I probably wouldn't have won the race."
It was billed as the first clash between Earnhardt and his son Dale Earnhardt Jr. on American soil. Early on it looked like the younger Earnhardt would seize the day. He was battling for the lead with Rusty Wallace when they got involved in an incident with Eddie Cheever Jr. that claimed all three cars.
"They crashed me out -- a couple of them did," said Earnhardt Jr. to his father in victory lane.
"What were you doing?" said his father.
"Whatever it takes to get to the front," answered Little E.
"It didn't pay to get to the front on that lap -- just the last one," said Earnhardt.
Jeff Gordon took over the lead after the incident, but then Martin took over and led for 23 of the race's 40 laps. It looked like he would win yet again in the series he dominated last year, but it wasn't to be.
"It was a good run for us," Martin said. "We gave it our best. We just kind of got moved out of the way there. I had it on the mat and I did everything I could do. Dale had a really fast car and he just got up on me."
Martin was able to block Earnhardt down the backstretch, but he knew he was far from being in the clear. This is, after all, Daytona. And that was Dale Earnhardt bearing down on him.
"These things aren't over 'til they're over," he said. "I knew I still had my hands full in three and four. I did everything I could and kept it down there on the bottom but I couldn't stay any lower or I'd have turned it around. Once he got up against me, the rear end started slipping and I had to follow it."
Defending IRL champion Kenny Brack and CART driver Greg Moore rounded out the top-five behind Earnhardt, Labonte and Martin. Gordon, CART driver Adrian Fernandez, Dale Jarrett, Wallace, Earnhardt Jr., Cheever and Jeff Burton rounded out the 12-man field.
Source: NASCAR Online