Earnhardt Jr. survives spin to win DOVER, Del. (May 30, 1998) Dale Earnhardt Jr. came back from a nearly disastrous pit stop miscue to win the MBNA Platinum 200 at Dover Downs International Speedway. Several drivers attempting to make...
Earnhardt Jr. survives spin to win
DOVER, Del. (May 30, 1998) Dale Earnhardt Jr. came back from a nearly disastrous pit stop miscue to win the MBNA Platinum 200 at Dover Downs International Speedway.
Several drivers attempting to make midrace, green-flag stops were unable to get slowed down enough to make the cut onto pit road, and had to come around the one-mile oval again before getting their service as a result.
Earnhardt saw others make the mistake, and then did the same thing himself. He looped his Chevrolet at lap 101, but quickly got going again in the right direction. The 23-year-old son of the seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion came around the track and pitted the next time around without losing a lap.
Once the leaders cycled through their stops, Earnhardt was second behind Bobby Hillin. The event's only yellow flag came out at lap 138 for early-leader Matt Kenseth's crash in Turn 1, allowing the few lead-lap cars remaining at that point to pit under caution a couple of laps later.
Earnhardt's crew got him off pit road first, and he led the rest of the way virtually unchallenged. He enjoyed a 4.022-second cushion over Hillin at the checkered flag, claiming the second victory of his career, and first since April 4 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt is the 13th different winner of Dover's spring Busch Series races in the last 13 events. Darrell Waltrip is the most recent repeat spring winner, having won it in 1985 and '86.
"The tires were pretty wore out," Earnhardt said. "It'd been 100 laps on them, and that's rare at this place. I came down on the asphalt (apron to the inside of the track), and that's a different beast than the concrete. Once I did that and downshifted into third (gear), I locked up the rear tires and spun the car out.
"Luckily, I didn't hit nothing. I know I came awful close to hitting the end of the pit wall, but we didn't hit nothing. I got the car righted, came back in and got an excellent pit stop. That helped us out, (making up) what I lost spinning out on the apron of the race track."
Hillin did a superb job all afternoon, and looked to be in great shape to put together a storybook victory. The Texan has struggled in recent yearsto continue his very existence in the sport.
Several rides have come and gone since he captured his lone NASCAR Winston Cup win back in 1986 at Talladega Superspeedway. So during the offseason, he put together a team of his own along with several major league baseball players and North Carolina businessmen. Players initially involved with the Charlotte, N.C.-based operation included Danny Shaeffer, Gary Gaetti, Pete Schourek, Hal Morris and Andy Benes.
St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire recently joined the effort, yet the team is still without a full-time primary sponsor.
"I really want to thank the Lord, not for a safe day, but for giving me strength to persevere during tough times," said Hillin, who qualified third. "He gives me strength. ... I want to thank all the baseball players. These guys have supported me through thick and thin.
"They're super great guys. They love the competitive part of NASCAR. We just gonna keep fighting to give 'em a win here pretty quick. ... This isn't a home run. It's more like a triple. We didn't win the race, but I'm really excited about it."
Hillin never ran lower than third, and eventually led four times for a total of 46 laps. His Chevrolet, however, was too tight at the end.
"The team's doing better, but we still have a lot to learn as a team. I wish I'd have
communicated a lot better before that last pit stop. I told them that the car was tight, and we didn't adjust it enough.
"We chewed up the right front tire on that last run, and we went from doing everything I could do to run Dale Jr. down to just keeping the right front tire from blowing out and finishing good."
Tony Stewart wrestled third away from Mike McLaughlin after dueling the NASCAR Busch Series points leader for several laps late in the race.
Dale Jarrett then jumped under McLaughlin for fourth coming off Turn 2 at lap 196 of the 200-lapper. McLaughlin held on to finish fifth, while Robert Pressley, Phil Parsons, Elton Sawyer, Jason Keller and Michael Waltrip.
Kenseth's accident allowed McLaughlin to open up his advantage in the NASCAR Busch Series standings from one point going into the event to 113 afterward. Earnhardt is 159 behind, followed by Buckshot Jones and Randy LaJoie in the top-five.
"We'll take it," McLaughlin said. "It was real loose at the beginning of the race, but then it started coming to me. ... Things worked out for me today. We weren't the fastest car out there. We had a fifth-place car, and we brought it home fifth."
The event was the fastest in Dover's NASCAR Busch Series history. It took Earnhardt 1 hour, 32 minutes and 12 seconds to complete the race at an average speed of 130.152 mph, breaking the record Harry Gant had held since September 1991.
Source: NASCAR Online