Phoenix Dale Earnhardt Ready to Win

Earnhardt ready to get back to Victory Lane PHOENIX (Oct. 20, 1998) Dale Earnhardt hasn't won since the season-opening Daytona 500 in February. He hasn't won at Phoenix International Raceway in eight years. The way Earnhardt figures it, it's...

Earnhardt ready to get back to Victory Lane

PHOENIX (Oct. 20, 1998) Dale Earnhardt hasn't won since the season-opening Daytona 500 in February. He hasn't won at Phoenix International Raceway in eight years.

The way Earnhardt figures it, it's time for both of those streaks to come to an end this Sunday in the Dura-Lube/Kmart 500 at the one-mile oval.

Although the results haven't quite shown it, the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet and its driver have shown marked improvement over the past few weeks. His top-10 run in the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte was cut short by a wreck, as was a solid run at Talladega two weeks ago where he was up among the leaders.

Earnhardt also ran up front in the Pepsi 400 at last Saturday night at Daytona, but wound up finishing 10th. He and the team led 40 laps last week during the Pepsi 400, the most laps they've led since winning the Daytona 500, where they led 107 of 188 circuits around the 2.5-mile tri-oval.

"It felt good to run with the leaders the last two weeks," Earnhardt said. "It has been a struggle. We have a good run and something spoils our chances. We haven't had much luck. I think we've wrecked four or five cars this year. That's more than we did the last two years."

Earnhardt is a former winner at Phoenix International Raceway. He crossed the line first in winning the Checkered 500 there in 1990. That year, Earnhardt was in a points battle with Mark Martin for the championship. He entered Phoenix trailing by 45 points.

After starting the race from third, Earnhardt went on to dominate the race by leading the final 272 laps. He left Phoenix with a six-point lead and only one race remaining on the schedule, and then went on to win the championship the following week, marking his fourth NASCAR Winston Cup title.

Earnhardt finished in the top-10 at Phoenix seven times, including one win and four top-five finishes. He finished fifth in last year's Dura-Lube 500.

Earnhardt needs to finish the season strong to keep his position in the standings. Currently in eighth, he has Terry Labonte and John Andretti drafting close behind. He holds a 23-point lead over Labonte, and leads 10th-place Andretti by 97 points.

Both Earnhardt and his team owner, Richard Childress, will be watching Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series GM Goodwrench/Delco Battery 300 at PIR with a vested interest. Earnhardt owns the No. 16 NAPA Brakes Chevrolet, driven by Ron Hornaday, and Childress owns the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet, driven by Jay Sauter.

Hornaday is locked in a tight battle with Jack Sprague for the series championship. He trails Sprague, the series point leader, by 28 points with two races remaining in 1998. Sauter is in fourth place in the series point standings heading to Phoenix.

"Richard and I enjoy watching the truck series," Earnhardt said. "We've watched it grow into a good racing series and have had a friendly rivalry. Since he can't win the championship (with Sauter), I'm sure he's pulling for us to take the trophy."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Terry Labonte , Jay Sauter , Jack Sprague , Mark Martin