Earnhardt: One Race At A Time

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Dale Earnhardt probably remembers 1989 pretty well. It may be the reason he’s still fairly calm about his chances of making up 213 points on Bobby Labonte with only six races remaining in the Winston Cup season.

One of the most memorable events -- though not a good memory for him -- in Earnhardt’s career came in 1989 in Charlotte, host of this weekend’s UAW-GM Quality 500.

He was leading the points battle by 75 over Rusty Wallace entering the fall event at Charlotte. On Lap 13, Earnhardt’s No. 3 broke a camshaft and it ended his day.

The result was a 42nd-place finish and a 110-point swing in the standings. Earnhardt, who had led by more than 100 points the week before, was now in second place and would be unable to catch Wallace in the remaining four events.

It was at Charlotte in the fall that another title -- which would now have been a record-breaking eighth -- slipped through his fingers. He’s hoping the same might happen to Labonte and knows all he can do is hope.

"We’re doing everything we can do," Earnhardt said. "We have to keep focused on our program and gain points every race. Charlotte is next on the list and we’ll take it one race at a time.

"The guys have been doing a tremendous job in the pits. Last week was a good example of that. Martinsville has close quarters for pit boxes and those guys didn’t flinch a bit. They put our Monte Carlo back on the track without incident every time. They want to win as bad as I do, it’s a team effort and we’re all focused."

The focus each week may be on more than finishing well. It’ll also be on how the No. 18 car does. In order for Earnhardt to catch Labonte in points, he’d have to gain an average of 35.5 points on the leader in each of the remaining events.

In May’s race at Charlotte, the Coca-Cola 600, Earnhardt started 15th and finished third. Only four times since then has the car finished outside of the Top 10.

"We’ve been close to winning these races," said crew chief Kevin Hamlin. "One of our goals was to turn the Top 10s into Top 5s, and we’re starting to do that on a more consistent basis."

"I’m very proud of this GM Goodwrench Service Plus team," remarked car owner Richard Childress. "All season they’ve pulled together and have never given up. No matter where we finish, or what the outcome is, I’m proud to have them on my
team."

Middle E: Points aren’t the only thing Earnhardt will be concerned with this weekend. Kerry Earnhardt, Dale’s oldest son, will attempt to qualify for the Cup race.

Kerry, who wrecked in his Cup debut at Michigan International Speedway earlier this year, will again be driving the No. 71 Realtree Chevy owned by Dave Marcis.

"Kerry didn’t get to race much in Michigan," Earnhardt said. "Dave Marcis and I want Kerry to get a chance to race at this level. He’s shown patience in the ARCA series and has a chance to show what he’s got in Winston Cup. He needs to cut a good lap in qualifying. If he does that, I look forward to seeing him Sunday."

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2000

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