Dale Earnhardt Jr. became the first rookie to win NASCAR's all-star race by taking a scintillating victory in Saturday night's The Winston. Crossing the finish line first at the end of 70 action-packed laps earned Earnhardt Jr. and the ...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. became the first rookie to win NASCAR's all-star race by taking a scintillating victory in Saturday night's The Winston. Crossing the finish line first at the end of 70 action-packed laps earned Earnhardt Jr. and the Budweiser crew a cool check for $516,410. Earnhardt Jr. now goes into next week's Coca-Cola 600 having won the last two Winston Cup races. After finishing third in both of the two 30-lap segments, Dale Jr. took command with one lap to go in the final 10-lap dash for the big cash. He was followed at the finish by two other Dales, Jarret in second and Earnhardt in third. The Key Moment:
A gut-wrenching decision to make a pit stop with 8 laps to go proved to be the winning call from the Bud crew. Running third at the time, the team decided to gamble by stopping for four new tires, dropping them to 10th position when the green flag fell again. Gaining one or two positions per lap, Dale Jr. pulled close behind leader Jarrett with two laps to go, eventually nosing ahead with one lap to go and then pulling away on the final circuit to take the victory as the crowd of more than 150,000 fans erupted in cheers.
Dale Junior's Quotes:
"It must be a full moon or something! We had so many troubles and so many setbacks that it is unbelievable to me that we're standing here in the victory lane. We hit the wall, we had a left rear tire come loose on the hub after the first segment, and yet despite all that we fought and fought and we ended up with such a great finish. The car was haulin' butt until I hit the wall, and then it slowed down a bit, but we made some changes and it was awesome fast those final laps."
About the decision to make the final pit stop with 8 laps to go:
"We were OK at that point, a top five car, but I just didn't feel like we had the car that could win. We talked a lot on the radio about it, and I was lobbying for us to come in and get four new tires to try and "free the car up" (make it turn better). Credit goes to (crew chief) Tony Eury Sr. and all of the guys because they made the right call and it paid off.
"Hey, we're racers, we're not just 'riders.' We were gonna go for the gusto - that's what this race is about. No points - no pressure, just drive it as hard as you can. When the race was ready to restart, Tony (Eury) Jr. (car chief) said on the radio "Here we come!" and I felt like the crew had confidence in me that I could do it.
About being joined in winner's circle by a happy father/car owner/third-place finisher Dale Earnhardt:
"The highlight of my life is seeing the smile on my daddy's face. I mean that's what this is all about: making people happy. It does my heart good to know how happy he is, how happy my team isâ€¦ This is great for the fans and for all of my sponsors like Budweiser and Remington and so many that have supported me and supported the team to help make this happen. Wow - I mean what are the odds of us even making this race and then winning it our first time out?! I've watched this race for years as a fan, and if you asked me, I think this one must've been fun to watch. It was damn exciting from my seat."
"That Budweiser tasted gooooood! It was so hot this afternoon, I wanted to drink a beer all day. I was happy to get the race over with in a hurry and grab a Bud."
About hitting the wall hard during the second 30-lap segment:
"Yeah, it was hard hit. I really thought I had more room than I did. We weren't pushing it, the car was so good, I was just cruising. It's like driving home in your pick-up and you hit the curb pulling into the driveway. I just messed up and hit the wall."
About the first 12 cars being "inverted" for the start of the second 30-lap segment:
"I thought, 'damn, all that driving in the first 30 laps only to be moved back!' (Dale Jr. started the second segment in the 10th position.) I told the guys on the radio that I'd try to get back up front as soon as I could but it was gonna be more fun to watch than it was for me to have to try and drive up there and pass all those guys."
On the radio, after passing twelve cars in six laps: "Whoooooooooooooohooooooo ooo! Hell yeah!"
About the ten minute break after the first segment:
"I noticed my side window had some fingerprints on it, but other than that, the car was so good we didn't need to make any real adjustments!"
About remembering Adam Petty, who died in a practice crash last week:
"I'm missing my buddy Adam. I've just been thinking of him all week, and I just wanted to dedicate this one to him. I know if he's watching us he's happy because it was a great race, but I really do miss him." The Winston Race Notes
Dale Earnhardt Jr. led only two laps in grabbing his third victory in six weeks. However, he led the lap that counted most. His winner's purse of more than half-a-million dollars paid the team more than $7,377 per lap run or $4,918 per mile raced!
The overall points and rookie standings stay the same as the Winston is not a points-paying event.
What's Next Coca-Cola 600, Concord, NC May 28, 2000 5:30 pm Eastern WTBS www.Budweiser.com