Earnhardt Jr. OK after backstretch tumble John Crowley - NASCAR Online DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 14, 1998) Dale Earnhardt's Jr.'s entire week has been a familiarization process, a formal introduction to the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National...
Earnhardt Jr. OK after backstretch tumble
John Crowley - NASCAR Online
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 14, 1998)
Dale Earnhardt's Jr.'s entire week has been a familiarization process, a formal introduction to the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division and the track known as the "World Center of Racing."
Saturday he got more up close and personal than he would have liked. The 23-year-old driver of the ACDelco Chevrolet Monte Carlo got tangled up with Dick Trickle on lap 105 of the NAPA Auto Parts 300 at Daytona International Speedway and ended up in an accident eerily reminiscent of his father's in the closing stages of last year's Daytona 500.
It started when Buckshot Jones got a good run off Turn 2 in his No. 00 Alka Seltzer/Bayer Pontiac. As the pack hurtled down the backstretch, Jones gently got up underneath Dick Trickle's No. 64 Schneider National Chevrolet. He tapped Trickle's bumper and the nudge sent Trickle into Earnhardt Jr. in the kind of a domino effect that is often unavoidable at high speed.
Earnhardt's car slid sideways and when it reached the grass, lifted up and performed a graceful, if terrifying, flipping pirouette. The car landed partially on Trickle's hood, then slammed down on its left front end, before spinning to a stop near the infield fence.
Not only was the crash somewhat of a flashback, but the recovery as well. Earnhardt Jr. quickly popped out of of the damaged machine and walked to the ambulance under his own power. Like father, like son.
"I'm a little woozy," he said after being released from the Infield Medical Center. "I flipped over and I really couldn't tell what was going on from inside the race car. I was just seeing grass-sky-grass-sky ..."
He was credited with a 37th-place finish, 81 laps and $22,925; not what the third-fastest driver in Bud Pole Qualifying had hoped for. But the list of lessons learned was a long one. He had a miscue in the pits that was actually more costly to his finish than the crash.
He overshot his pits on lap 22, knocking jackman Kevin Pennell flying in the process. The 20-year-old native of Kannapolis, N.C., the Earnhardt family's hometown, nearly landed on his feet, and was unhurt except for a bruised knee.
But in his hurry to leave the box after the miscue, Earnhardt Jr. put the car in gear before the jack had been released and he twisted the driveshaft. It ended up needing replacement, putting him some 30 laps down from the leaders before the abrupt ending on lap 105.
"One of my biggest worries all week was making a rookie mistake during a pit stop," Earnhardt Jr. said. "And then that's exactly what happened. I caused the driveshaft to twist; and well, it's been a lesson learned. I won't forget that one."
Teresa Earnhardt and a handful of Dale Earnhardt Inc. personnel met the heir to the family racing throne outside the gate of the Infield Medical Center. Minutes before Earnhardt Jr.'s release, NASCAR Winston Cup Series veteran Geoff Bodine walked over and inquired about the young driver's health. After being told everything was fine, Bodine, satisfied with what he'd heard, strolled back to his garage to prepare for Happy Hour.
The gesture from one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers was a sign of respect, the kind that Earnhardt Jr. came down here to earn. Clearly, he did.
"I didn't see him go over, but I know they can be big here," Bodine said. "He's a good kid and he's going to be some kind of driver, too. I'm just glad he's OK."
And from one of its most popular: "It wasn't Dale Jr.'s fault," Trickle said. "He showed he belongs out there. I never had any doubt."
Courtesy of NASCAR Online