Earnhardt Jr. finds way to Victory Lane By Shawn A. Akers MADISON, Ill. (Oct. 17, 1998) Every time Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won a NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division race this year, he's had the most dominant car on the race track. On...
Earnhardt Jr. finds way to Victory Lane By Shawn A. Akers
MADISON, Ill. (Oct. 17, 1998) Every time Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won a NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division race this year, he's had the most dominant car on the race track. On Saturday, Earnhardt Jr. admitted he didn't have the best car on the track, yet somehow, he managed to find a way to win the Carquest Auto Parts 250 at Gateway International Raceway.
That's the stuff champions are made of.
Earnhardt grabbed the point from Buckshot Jones when Jones' car broke an oil line on lap 174, and he then cruised to his seventh win of the NASCAR Busch Series season and inched ever so closer to the series championship in his first full season on circuit.
"Little E," as he is affectionately known to many, is now 102 points ahead of Matt Kenseth in the championship race with three races left in the season. Kenseth finished a solid second on Saturday in his No. 17 LYCOS.com Chevrolet.
Earnhardt said had Jones' car not malfunctioned, he wasn't certain if he would have been able to pass the No. 00 Bayer/Alka-Seltzer Pontiac.
"Buckshot was strong, awfully strong," Earnhardt said. "We weren't sure if were going to be able to beat him or not. We had a hard time trying to get by him because he wasn't going to give up anything.
"We didn't want to use up the tires, so we tried to conserve a little, especially in the middle part of the race. So, we hoped that if we just run well enough to stay within a few car lengths of him, maybe we might catch a break."
He did when Jones' car started smoking 28 laps from the finish. NASCAR black-flagged Jones two laps later, and he came into the pits, where he lost two laps to the race leaders. Jones eventually finished four laps down to Earnhardt.
Kenseth led his share of laps throughout the event, but couldn't overcome Earnhardt's ACDelco Chevrolet at the end.
"We had a strong car today, but it just wasn't enough," Kenseth said. "We really thought we had a good enough car to win. On the last pit stop, they (the No. 3 ACDelco Chevrolet team) made an adjustment, and that made them much better later in the race. Again, we had a great car, but it just wasn't good enough to win the race."
Earnhardt's crew tightened the car up on his last pit stop on lap 143, the one thing Earnhardt said put him over the top and allowed him to win.
Jeff Purvis scored his third top-10 finish in his last four races by finishing third. The driver of the No. 4 Lance Snacks Chevrolet led the most laps during the 200-lap event, but didn't have enough for the front runners in the final few laps.
"Little Earnhardt ran good all day," Purvis said. "I knew I wasn't going to catch Matt (Kenseth), and I knew I wasn't going to catch the 3 car. Near the end, all I could was hope that something happened to one of them because that was the only way I was going to win."
Rookie Andy Santerre came up with his best finish of the 1998 season by far. The driver of the No. 47 Monro Muffler and Brakes Chevrolet, who started sixth, finished fourth and tightened his grip on the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award race.
Tony Stewart finished fifth, followed by Dave Blaney, Randy LaJoie, polesitter Shane Hall, Todd Bodine and Glenn Allen.
The NASCAR Busch Series now heads to North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C., for the ACDelco 200. The series will finish out the season with races at Atlanta and Homestead, Fla.
Source: NASCAR Online