RICHMOND, Va. (April 9, 1999) A third generation of Earnhardt will pilot a No. 8 car at Richmond in September. Budweiser and Dale Earnhardt Inc. officials announced in St. Louis Friday that defending NASCAR Busch Series Grand National...
RICHMOND, Va. (April 9, 1999) A third generation of Earnhardt will pilot a No. 8 car at Richmond in September. Budweiser and Dale Earnhardt Inc. officials announced in St. Louis Friday that defending NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion Dale Earnhardt Jr., 24, will attempt to make the field for Richmond International Raceway's Sept. 11 Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400 in a Budweiser-liveried car No. 8 Chevrolet. The announcement of the event, one of five NASCAR Winston Cup Series races that the son of seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt plans to run this season, evoked instant memories from Richmond track President Paul Sawyer.
Should the third generation NASCAR star make the Richmond field, it will mark the 54th time the No. 8 has competed in a Richmond NASCAR Winston Cup Series race. Ironically, 1999 marks the 54th season of racing at the Richmond site, dating to 1946 -- perhaps a favorable omen for seven-time champion, Dale Earnhardt's son in his Richmond NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut.
"How I remember that No. 8," Sawyer said. "I think everyone knows the Earnhardt family history of that car number. Of course, Dale Jr.'s grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt made the number famous on Carolina's dirt tracks en route to his 1956 NASCAR Sportsman Division national championship. Then along came his father with the same number on his Late Models."
"But, what I remember most about No. 8," said Norfolk, Va., native Sawyer, "is that my buddy, best friend and business partner, Joe Weatherly ran the number on his cars. He won two NASCAR Winston Cup championships for car owner Bud Moore carrying No. 8."
What Sawyer didn't say is that Weatherly, another Norfolk native, and Spartanburg, S.C.'s Moore combined to give the No. 8 far and away the most famous rides at Richmond of any NASCAR Winston Cup Series car to ever carry that number -- and 13 different drivers have appeared in 53 Richmond NASCAR Winston Cup Series races to date with the No. 8 festooned on their doors and roof.
Of course, Weatherly may have had an advantage over the other No. 8 drivers at Richmond. He was AMA motorcycle national champion and NASCAR Modified Division national champion who had already won at the old half-mile dirt Richmond layout on two wheels and four before he ever made his Richmond NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut.
In just five Richmond NASCAR Winston Cup Series appearances together from 1961-1963, Weatherly, racing's "Clown Prince," and the affable Moore scored three wins, four top-fives and a pole position with their No. 8 mounts. The three wins came in Pontiacs and the lone pole in a Mercury. Weatherly's Sept. 8, 1963 Richmond pole marked his last visit to Paul Sawyer's track prior to the superstar's untimely death in Moore's No. 8 at Riverside, Calif., in January 1964.
Moore would win many more races in a storied career as an owner, but his cars would never again bear No. 8. Ironically, in another twist of fate, Earnhardt Jr.'s famous dad would score his breakthrough Darlington and Talladega superspeedway wins driving Bud Moore-owned cars to Victory Lane.
The very first NASCAR Winston Cup Series No. 8 to appear at Richmond was a 1951 Hudson Hornet driven by Chesapeake, Ohio's Gene Comstock on April 19, 1953 in Richmond's first NASCAR Winston Cup Series race. Kelso, Washington's Ed Negre started the most Richmond races in No. 8, a total of 18 from 1968-1978. Midland, Texas driver Bobby Hillin is second with 12 No. 8 Richmond starts. In fact, Hillin has a No. 8 car entered at Richmond on May 14, but it is his NASCAR Busch Series Grand National entry in the Hardee's 250.
The last time a NASCAR Winston Cup Series car No. 8 competed at Richmond was in September 1997, when Hut Stricklin campaigned the Stavola brothers Ford. In between, such drivers as Billy Carden, Elmo Langley, Larry Manning, Dick May, Rick Wilson, Dick Trickle, Sterling Marlin and current point leader Jeff Burton of South Boston, Va., have all driven No. 8 at Richmond.
Young Earnhardt Jr. is following in some famous footsteps when he climbs aboard the No. 8. His sleek, fireproof, state-of-the-art driving shoes may differ significantly from Weatherly's black & white saddle oxfords, but the winner of Richmond's September 1998 Autolite Platinum 250 hopes his Richmond results in the Budweiser 8 will parallel Weatherly's success at Sawyer's Richmond venue.
You can bet Sawyer will be watching the young hotshoe closely.
Source: NASCAR Online