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RCR and ECR Honor Dale Earnhardt at Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 11, 2011) - Richard Childress Racing and Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines will pay tribute to the life and legacy of the legendary Dale Earnhardt throughout 2011 Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway.
Commemorative No. 3 decals will adorn all eight of RCR's race cars, transporters and pit boxes. ECR employees will wear special ECR/No. 3 hats at the track throughout Speedweeks while RCR employees will wear special RCR/No. 3 hats February 18.
"All of us at RCR and ECR are honored to pay tribute to Dale on this 10th anniversary," said Richard Childress, president and CEO of Richard Childress Racing and Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines. "His legacy is still felt every day at RCR, ECR and throughout the world. We hope all of Dale's fans appreciate this salute to their hero and ours."
The No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet has been adorned with a small No. 3 decal since Kevin Harvick assumed the driving duties of RCR's former No. 3 Chevrolet in the second race of the 2001 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season after Earnhardt's passing at Daytona on February 18, 2001.
Taylor Earnhardt Completes First Runs in RCR No. 3 Chevrolet Her Father Made Famous
GOODWOOD, England (July 3, 2009) – Taylor Earnhardt, daughter of Dale and Teresa Earnhardt, completed two hillclimb runs in the first day of the 17th annual Goodwood Festival of Speed driving the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo her father made famous.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is held on the grounds of Goodwood House in West Sussex , a place of significant British motorsports history. This year’s gathering includes a number of NASCAR stock cars in honor of the 50th anniversary of Daytona International Speedway that will participate in both demonstration and competition runs up the nine-turn, 1.16-mile hillclimb circuit.
“It was a great experience driving my dad’s race car today,” said the younger Earnhardt. “There are so many great race cars and race drivers here and I was honored to be able to run with them. The Goodwood Festival is an amazing event and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
The car was prepared and is being taken care of at the Goodwood Festival of Speed by former No. 3 team crew members Danny Lawrence and Rich Burgess. The No. 3 Chevy was the car Dale Earnhardt drove to his 76th and final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in October 2000 at Talladega ( Ala. ) Superspeedway.
Lawrence is currently the assistant head engine builder/trackside manager for Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines and Burgess is the shop manager for RCR’s No. 31 Caterpillar team in the NSCS.
“ Taylor did a really good job,” said Lawrence . “She doesn’t have a lot of experience in a race car but she learned pretty quick and held her own out there. I was told there were about 125,000 fans here today so it had to be a little intimidating. But, she knows a thing or two about intimidating so it didn’t seem to bother her any. She should have even more confidence for tomorrow’s runs.”
Earnhardt’s Black No. 3 Chevy Unveiled at NC Sports Hall of Fame
WELCOME, N.C. (May 14, 2009) -- The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame is now home to a black No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet made famous by the legendary Dale Earnhardt.
RCR President and CEO, Richard Childress , with whom Earnhardt won six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships from 1986 to 1994, was on-hand for the May 13 celebration in downtown Raleigh , N.C. The 2000 No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo was unveiled next to a 1963 No. 3 Chevrolet Impala made famous by pioneer NASCAR driver and car owner Junior Johnson. The race cars are on display in the lobby of the North Carolina Museum of History in the Sports Hall of Fame.
“To be able to put one of Dale’s cars into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame after everything he accomplished as a lifelong resident of North Carolina is a great honor,” said Childress. “Dale was inducted into the hall of fame years ago so we felt it was important to have one of RCR’s famous black No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevys on display there, too.”
Earnhardt was inducted into the hall of fame in 1994 and went on that season to win his seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Childress was honored with his own induction last May.
The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame began as a two-year exhibit in the North Carolina Museum of History in February 1982. The grand opening of the 4,000-square-foot exhibit took place in April 1994.
About Richard Childress Racing
Richard Childress Racing (www.rcrracing.com), celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2009, has earned more than 180 victories and 12 NASCAR championships, including six in the Sprint Cup Series with the legendary Dale Earnhardt. RCR was the first organization to win championships in the Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. Its 2009 Sprint Cup Series lineup includes Casey Mears (No. 07 Jack Daniel’s), Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil), Jeff Burton (No. 31 Caterpillar) and Clint Bowyer (No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper). Its 2009 Nationwide Series lineup includes Bowyer, Burton and Stephen Leicht (No. 29 Holiday Inn) and Austin Dillon (No. 2 RCR Chevrolet.)
Dale Earnhardt’s 2001 Participation In Rolex 24 At Daytona Reintroduced Sports Car Racing To NASCAR Fans, Competitors
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 22, 2008)– As fast as the media could report it, word shot around the world in the fall of 2000 when Dale Earnhardt announced he would compete in the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Feb. 3-4, 2001, barely three months away on Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course.
In a race where many race car drivers must become one if the resultant team is to succeed at its task, come race time the busy seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion had been able to get in only a veritable handful of practice hours in his No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette he shared with co-drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins.
Yet, by the end of the traditional annual kick-off race to Daytona’s annual Speedweeks, the team had traveled more than 2,200 miles, and finished fourth overall behind their race-winning teammates in the No. 2 Corvette, Ron Fellows, Frank Freon, Chris Kneifel and Johnny O’Connell. (Those two teams also finished 1-2 in the production-based GTS class.)
Called the most grueling of the world’s endurance contests for good reason, surviving Rolex 24 teams – fewer than half typically make it to the finish – must endure more than 13 hours of night-time driving between Saturday’s setting sun and Sunday’s sunrise, as well as outlast whatever Mother Nature may hurl at them – whether sub-freezing temperatures or, in 2001, a hard rain by the time the elder Earnhardt got in the car.
In the car for his first of at least two, three-hour race shifts and without any practice time in wet-road conditions, Earnhardt nevertheless was sent onto the course which features more than a mile of curving infield asphalt onto DIS’ famed 2.5-mile high banks.
“Keep an eye on my times,” Earnhardt said to his teammates over the radio. “If I’m going too slow, call me in and put Andy (Pilgrim) back in.”
Earnhardt – himself being for years the only driver he knew to lean on when the chips were down – had quickly become the consummate teammate.
“You’re doing fine,” Pilgrim recently recalled saying in response to Earnhardt.
“I just told him where and what to expect on some of the course’s most treacherous spots,” Pilgrim said. “He listened, he asked questions. Dale did a phenomenal job.”
At the end, a broadly smiling Earnhardt and his son joined their teammates as the two-car Corvette team, having scored first- and fourth-place overall, celebrated in Victory Lane.
Two weeks later, Earnhardt died following a last-lap accident in the Daytona 500. Thus, questions were never fully answered about why he had finally chosen to compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Why would one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers dare go compete in a race so different from that in which he’d proven himself time and again? People who were there for that magical weekend recall Earnhardt’s competitive nature as the catalyst.
“When we left that day after the Rolex 24, we hadn’t even gotten in the air when Big E already started making plans for the next one,” said Steve Crisp, now the director of motorsports at Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s’ organization, JR Motorsports.
“In all the years I’d known him, Big E was one of the baddest guys in the jungle when we walked into any other place. Yet, when we went to the Rolex 24 he understood he wasn’t coming in as the 800-pound gorilla.
“Dale had a huge amount of respect for drivers who could jump back and forth from one kind of race car to another and it’s something he wanted to do, too. It was a challenge to him. He wanted to learn and he asked Andy (Pilgrim) and Kelly (Collins) and all of them a ton of questions. He was like a kid in a candy store.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all but it was pretty cool – especially looking back on it.”
Though Earnhardt wasn’t the first NASCAR notable to race in the Rolex 24 – in 1962 Glenn “Fireball” Roberts raced his Ferrari 250 GT alongside the Corvettes of Marvin Panch and Joe Weatherly in Daytona International’s first sports car race – he was without doubt the most accomplished, and his participation, in retrospect, has seemed to reintroduce the event to both NASCAR fans and competitors alike. Since 2001, than a dozen NASCAR stars and six NASCAR Sprint Cup champions have competed in the classic event.
“Back when Dale ran the 2001 Rolex 24 I hadn’t even won my first NASCAR Nationwide Series race,” 2006 and 2007 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said.
“But I knew he was in it. And I kind of hoped I’d be in it one day, too, because a driver always wants to test his limits and see where he can go and learn something new.”
Dale Earnhardt drove the #3 car for most of his career, spanning the early 1980s until his death in 2001. Although he had other sponsors during his career, his #3 is associated in fan's minds with his last sponsor, GM Goodwrench, and his last color scheme — a predominantly black car with bold red and silver trim. The black and red #3 continues to be one of the most famous logos in racing.
In 2002, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., drove a Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the Busch Grand National series race at Daytona. The car featured Oreo Cookies as a primary sponsor, and carried the trademarked #3 on the doors and roof. He went on to win the race. As of 2006, he hasn't driven the #3 again (in fact, no other team in any of the major NASCAR series has used it since Earnhardt's death), however in interviews he has stated that he would "probably finish his career driving the #3 car".
A common misconception is that Richard Childress Racing "owns the rights" to the #3 (fueled by the fact that Kevin Harvick's car has a little #3 as an homage to Earnhardt), but in fact no team owns the rights to this or any other number: NASCAR decides who uses which number. However, according to established NASCAR procedures, RCR would have priority over other teams if and when the time came to reuse the number. RCR and the Earnhardt estate do own the rights to various black and red #3 logos used during Earnhardt's lifetime; however these rights would not prevent a future racing team from using a different #3 design. (Also, a new #3 team would, in any case, need to create logos which fit with their sponsor's logos.)
It is generally believed that current NASCAR owners have agreed never to use the #3 in NEXTEL Cup competition again, although this is not official NASCAR policy. Only the International Race of Champions has actually retired the #3, which they did in a rule change effective in 2004. Anyone wishing to use the #3 again has to use #03 instead.
In 2004, ESPN released a made-for-TV movie entitled 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story which used a new (but similarly colored) #3 logo. Even though the movie was a sympathetic portrayal of Earnhardt's life, the producers did get sued for using the #3 logo. (The lawsuit has not gone to trial as of December 2006.)
Earnhardt was a very polarizing figure in NASCAR. He was both loved and hated in the sport, yet despite his numerous detractors, Earnhardt remained one of the sport's most popular drivers. His death drew a considerable amount of reaction from the nation, NASCAR, and his fans.
Earnhardt kept his personal life relatively private. He enjoyed the company of his family, being outdoors, hunting and fishing, and actively working on his farm in Mooresville. In contrast with his image as a hardnosed competitor on the track, off the track he was known to his friends as someone who was charitable and generous, but usually kept that side of himself hidden from the rest of the world.
Earnhardt has a street in his hometown of Kannapolis named after him. Dale Earnhardt Boulevard (originally Earnhardt Road) is marked as Exit 60 off of Interstate 85, northeast of Charlotte. Dale Earnhardt Boulevard is also the start of The Dale Trail,  a self-guided driving tour of landmarks in the lives of Dale and his family. A road between Kannapolis and Mooresville, near the headquarters of DEI, has been given the designation State Highway 3 by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. In addition, Exit 73 off of Interstate 35W, one of the entrances to Texas Motor Speedway, is named "Dale Earnhardt Way".
Recording artist Jason Swain's song "Victory Lane" was among many songs released in tribute to Dale Earnhardt posthumously.
Between the 2004 and 2005 JGTC (subsequently renamed Super GT from 2005) season, Hasemi Sport competed in the series with a sole black G'Zox sponsored Nissan 350Z with the same number and letterset as Earnhardt on the roof.
During the April 29, 2006 - May 1, 2006 NASCAR weekend races at Talladega Superspeedway, the Dale Earnhardt Inc cars competed in identical special black paint schemes on Dale Earnhardt Day, held annually on his birthday, April 29th. Martin Truex Jr won the Aaron's 312 in the black car, painted to reflect Earnhardt's Intimidating Black #3 Winston Cup Car. In the Nextel Cup race on May 1st. #8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. and #1 Martin Truex Jr. competed in cars with the same type of paint scheme.
On June 18, 2006 at Michigan for the 3M Performance 400 Dale Earnhardt Jr ran a special vintage Budweiser car to honor his dad and his grandfather Ralph Earnhardt. He finished 3rd after rain caused the race to be cut short. The car was painted to resemble Ralph's 1956 dirt cars, and carried 1956-era Budweiser logos to complete the throwback look.
In 2007, a documentary-style movie, entitled Dale, was released in theatres and, according to the movie website, includes original, never-before-seen footage of Earnhardt's racing career and personal life, as well as family photos and historical interviews with the seven-time champion that give the viewer an unprecedented look at the man Earnhardt truly was. Dale Movie Dale The Movie was released in early 2007 showing only in major NASCAR markets. The film is a collaboration between NASCAR Media and CMT, and is due for a future DVD release.
Earnhardt has had several connections with various genres of music, especially Country, both before and after his death.
Despite the early start, Speedweeks was a disappointment for Earnhardt, who had a long-running tradition of winning at least one race during the two-week season kick-off. Earnhardt finished second to Tony Stewart in the Budweiser Shootout. He was also denied victory in the Gatorade Twin 125 qualifying race in which he participated. Earnhardt had won every Twin 125 event he competed in during the 1990s, and was in 3rd place on the final lap in 2001 when Sterling Marlin pulled off a slingshot pass going down the backstretch.
Taking it in stride, Earnhardt appeared relaxed and confident in television interviews on the morning of the 2001 Daytona 500. When the Daytona 500 started, Earnhardt showed early promise, leading the race and running up front for most of the event.
A multi-car wreck late in the race eliminated several cars in spectacular fashion. Tony Stewart, who had beaten Earnhardt in the Budweiser Shootout, found his car tumbling wildly down the backstretch. As it tumbled, Earnhardt managed to weave his way through wrecked cars and come out unscathed. The race was stalled to facilitate cleanup of the track, and when the race resumed, it was Earnhardt and DEI drivers Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip who were running up front. As the laps wound down, Waltrip was leading Earnhardt Jr. and Earnhardt.
As the final lap unfolded, Earnhardt was following his son and Waltrip. The first three cars were in a single line. But just behind Earnhardt, Sterling Marlin, Ken Schrader, and Rusty Wallace were in a furious three-wide battle. Earnhardt moved from the center of the turn toward the bottom, possibly to block Marlin.
Going into the final turn during the last lap, Earnhardt's car seemed to be going faster than Sterling Marlin and Ken Schrader as a result of being pushed by Sterling Marlin. There appeared to be contact between the back bumper of Earnhardt's car and the nose of Marlin's. However, most observers in the press box concluded that there was no contact and that Earnhardt lost control because Marlin's car disrupted the air flow across Earnhardt's rear spoiler -- a common problem that drivers must overcome at Daytona.
Earnhardt’s car spun off the track's steep banking, onto the flat apron, and then turned sharply up the track, toward the outside retaining wall, and into the path of the #36 Pontiac driven by Ken Schrader. Schrader ran into Earnhardt's car just behind the passenger door, causing both cars to run nose-first into the wall. Earnhardt's #3 hit at a critical angle at nearly 150 miles per hour. The left-rear wheel assembly broke off the car on impact. The hood pins severed and the hood flapped open, slamming against the windshield as the car slid slowly down the track. To most observers, the crash looked minor, and certainly not as dramatic as his famous 1996 wreck at Talladega, when Earnhardt's car was pelted several times in the roof and windshield as it rolled across the track.
While Michael Waltrip raced toward the checkered flag to claim his first victory, with Junior close behind, the cars of Earnhardt and Schrader slid off the track's asphalt banking toward the infield grass just inside of turn four. After climbing from the wreck of his car, Schrader peered into Earnhardt's car, only to jump back and signal for EMTs. As medical crews converged upon the crash scene, a FOX reporter asked Schrader about Earnhardt's condition. "I'm not a doctor, but I got the heck out of the way as soon as I got there," Schrader said solemnly. Earnhardt was taken to Halifax Medical Center by ambulance after being removed from his car. Hours later, at a press conference, NASCAR President Mike Helton made the formal announcement to the world saying, "Undoubtedly this is one of the toughest announcements I've personally had to make. After the accident in Turn 4 at the end of the Daytona 500, we've lost Dale Earnhardt."
Earnhardt's death was the catalyst for change that continues even now. Following his death, there was a police investigation, as well as a NASCAR-sanctioned investigation. Nearly every detail of the event was made public, from the finding of a torn seatbelt inside Earnhardt's car to graphic descriptions of the injuries the driver suffered at the moment of impact. [There are rumors that he did not have his seat belt on properly. He liked to wear it loose so he could move around and not feel too constrained. The allegations of seatbelt failure led Bill Simpson to resign from the company bearing his name, which manufactured the seatbelts used in Earnhardt's car and nearly every other NASCAR competitor's machine.
Several press conferences were held in the days following Earnhardt's death. Some fans wrote threatening letters to Sterling Marlin, blaming him for causing the wreck. Quickly thereafter, Earnhardt's son, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., publicly and adamantly absolved Marlin of any responsibility.
Earnhardt's #3 car was immediately retired by team owner Richard Childress, who made a public pledge that the number would never again adorn the side of a black car sponsored by GM Goodwrench, the color scheme and sponsor Earnhardt had driven since 1988. Earnhardt's team was re-christened as the #29 team, with the same sponsor but with a new look (a reversed color scheme with white with black numerals and a black stripe on the bottom) for the following races at Rockingham and Las Vegas. For Atlanta, a new GM Goodwrench scheme was introduced, with angled red stripes and a thin blue pinstripe, resembling the Childress AC Delco Chevrolets driven in the Busch Series.
Childress' second-year Busch Series driver Kevin Harvick was named as Earnhardt's replacement driver, beginning with the race following Earnhardt's death held at the North Carolina Speedway. Special hats bearing the #3 were distributed to everyone at the track to honor Earnhardt, and the Childress team wore blank uniforms out of respect, something which disappeared quickly and was replaced by the wearing of the GM Goodwrench Service Plus uniforms.
Fans took it upon themselves to begin honoring Earnhardt by holding three fingers aloft on the third lap of every NASCAR Cup race, and the television coverage of Fox and NBC went silent for each third lap from Rockingham through to the next Daytona 500 in honor of Earnhardt (and, after 9/11, in remembrance of those who perished that day). For the first three weeks after Earnhardt's death, on-track incidents brought out the caution flag on lap three. Three weeks after Earnhardt's death, Harvick scored his first career Cup win at Atlanta driving a car that had been prepared for Earnhardt. In the final lap of the 2001 Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500, Harvick beat Jeff Gordon by .006 seconds, and the images of Earnhardt's longtime fueler, Danny "Chocolate" Myers, crying after the victory, Harvick's tire-smoking burnout on the frontstretch with three fingers held aloft outside the driver's window, and the electrifying Fox television call by Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds, and Darrell Waltrip, concluding with "Gordon got loose, it's Harvick! Harvick by inches!" are memorable to many NASCAR fans. The win was also considered cathartic for a sport whose epicenter had been ripped away.
Other notable events include:
1/64 Scale Winner's Circle 1957 Cool Custom Car $9.95
1/64 Scale Action Daytona 500 Winner Car $9.95
1/64 Scale Winner's Circle Car $9.95
Action 1975 Dodge Charger $9.95 ea
The Richard Childress Racing No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo that the legendary Dale Earnhardt drove to victory in the 1995 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is driven by his eldest son, Kerry Earnhardt, in the 2010 Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.
This is the second consecutive year RCR has participated in the Festival of Speed. Last year, Taylor Earnhardt, Dale's youngest daughter, drove the black No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet her father earned his 76th and final NASCAR Cup Series victory in, on Oct. 15, 2000, at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Kerry Earnhardt does a burnout in the 1995 Brickyard 400-winning car for the fans at the 2010 Goodwood Festival of Speed in England. "Dad winning that race was a pretty big deal because it's such a special race," Earnhardt said. "I'm honored to be driving it at all, but doing it at the Goodwood Festival of Speed makes it that much more special. Taylor (Earnhardt) drove one of Dad's cars last year at Goodwood and she told me it was a lot of fun and there were a lot of great people there."
NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Hunter watches a video of Dale Earnhardt after he was selected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. Earnhardt is the co-holder (with fellow inductee Richard Petty) of the record for most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships with seven.
Teresa Earnhardt, wife of Dale Earnhardt Sr. speaks to SPEED after the announcement of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductions on Wednesday. She said of Dale Earnhardt's induction into the inaugural class: "It is truly an honor to see Dale Earnhardt recognized as one of the five most influential members of the NASCAR family and inducted in the first class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Of the many legendary accomplishments and accolades of his career –- from the seven championships to the win in the Daytona 500 to the founding of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. -- this is another defining moment. It is the achievement of a lifetime and is celebrated by the millions of Dale Earnhardt fans around the world."
Dale Earnhardt 1951-2001
Ralph Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
April 29, 1951 – February 18, 2001.Dale was an American race car driver, best known for his career driving stock cars in NASCAR's top division. Earnhardt had four children, Kerry, Kelley Elledge Earnhardt, Dale Jr., and Taylor Earnhardt. His widow, Teresa Earnhardt (whom he married in 1982) is the owner of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., the race team and merchandising corporation Earnhardt founded with her in February of 1980.
Earnhardt is known for his success in the Winston Cup Series, now known as the Nextel Cup Series (which will be known as the Sprint Cup Series beginning in 2008). He won seventy-six races (including his only Daytona 500 victory in 1998), and his seven championships are tied for most all-time with Richard Petty. His highly aggressive driving style made him a fan favorite and earned him the nicknames "Ironhead", "Mr. Restrictor Plate", "The Man in Black" (no relation to Johnny Cash) and most famously "The Intimidator".
Dale Earnhardt began his Winston Cup career in 1975, making his first start at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in the longest race on the Cup circuit, the World 600. Earnhardt drove an Ed Negre car and finished 22nd in the race, one place ahead of his future car owner, Richard Childress. Earnhardt competed in 8 more races until 1979, when he joined Rod Osterlund Racing, in a season that included a rookie class of future stars - Earnhardt, Harry Gant and Terry Labonte.
In his rookie season, Earnhardt won four poles (one race at Bristol), had 11 Top 5 finishes, 17 Top 10 finishes, and finished 7th in the points standings, in spite of missing four races because of a broken collarbone, winning Rookie of the Year honors.
In his sophomore season, Earnhardt, now with 20-year old Doug Richert as his crew chief, began the season winning the Busch Clash. With wins at Atlanta, Bristol, Nashville, Martinsville, and Charlotte, Earnhardt won his first Winston Cup championship. To this day, Earnhardt is the only driver in NASCAR Winston Cup history to win Rookie of the Year honors, and the following season win the NASCAR Winston Cup Championship.
After the 1983 season, Earnhardt returned to Richard Childress Racing, swapping teams with Ricky Rudd. Rudd went to Bud Moore's #15, and Dale took over the #3 made famous by Rudd. Wrangler sponsored both cars. During the 1984 and 1985 seasons, Earnhardt visited victory lane six times, at Talladega, Atlanta, Richmond, Bristol (twice), and Martinsville, where he finished fourth and eighth in the season standings, respectively.
The 1986 season saw Earnhardt win his second career Winston Cup Championship and the first owner's championship for RCR. He won five races and had ten Top 5 and sixteen Top 10 finishes. Earnhardt successfully defended his championship the following year, visiting victory lane eleven times and winning the championship by 288 points over Bill Elliott. In the process, Earnhardt set a NASCAR modern era record of four consecutive wins and won five of the first seven races. In the 1987 season Earnhardt earned his nickname "The Intimidator" after spinning out Elliott in the final segment of The Winston.
The 1988 season saw Earnhardt racing with a new sponsor, GM Goodwrench, which replaced Wrangler. During this season Earnhardt garnered a second nickname, "The Man in Black", owing to the black paint scheme in which the #3 car was painted. He was also called "Darth Vader" more than once because of the black uniform and car, adding to his notoriety as a driver who would wreck you if he couldn't pass you. He won three times in 1988, finishing third in the points standings behind Bill Elliott and Rusty Wallace. The following year, Earnhardt won five times, but a late spinout at North Wilkesboro arguably cost him the 1989 championship, as Rusty Wallace edged out Earnhardt for the championship.
The 1990 season started with another disappointing result in the Daytona 500. Speed Week started auspiciously with victories in the Busch Clash and his heat of the Gatorade Twin 125's. Near the end of the 500, he had a 4 second lead when the final caution flag came out with a handful of laps to go. When the green flag waved, Earnhardt was leading Derrike Cope. On the final lap, Earnhardt ran over a piece of metal in the final turn, cutting a tire. Cope, in an upset, won the race while Earnhardt finished 5th. The #3 Goodwrench Chevy team took the flat tire that cost them the win and hung it on the shop wall. Apparently, this strategy to inspire worked, because Earnhardt won nine races. He also won his 4th Winston Cup title, beating out Mark Martin by just 26 points.
The 1991 season saw Earnhardt win his 5th Winston Cup championship. He scored just 4 wins, but took the title by 195 points over Ricky Rudd. One of the biggest highlights of the season for Earnhardt was scoring the win at North Wilkesboro. Harry Gant, who had tied Earnhardt's mark of 4 consecutive wins and was going for a 5th, lost the brakes late in the race, giving Earnhardt the chance he needed to make the pass for the win.
After winning his second set of consecutive titles, Dale Earnhardt was determined to make it 3 in a row, but Ford's new engine and aerodynamic package for the Thunderbird dominated, winning 13 consecutive races from the end of the 1991 season into the first nine races of 1992. Earnhardt's only win in 1992 came at Charlotte, in the prestigious Coca-Cola 600, ending the 13-race win streak for the Ford teams. Earnhardt finished a career-low 12th in the points for the 2nd time in his career, and the only time he had finished that low since joining RCR. At the end of the year, longtime crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine left to become a driver. Andy Petree took over as crew chief.
Hiring Petree turned out to be beneficial, as the #3 GM Goodwrench Chevy returned to the front in 1993. Earnhardt once again came close to a win at the Daytona 500, and dominated Speedweeks before finishing 2nd to Dale Jarrett on a last-lap pass. Earnhardt scored 6 wins en route to his 6th Winston Cup title, including wins in the Coca-Cola 600 and The Winston at Charlotte, and the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. Earnhardt beat Rusty Wallace for the championship by 80 points.
In 1994, Earnhardt achieved a feat that he himself had believed to be impossible - he scored his seventh Winston Cup championship, tying the legendary Richard Petty. Earnhardt was very consistent, scoring 4 wins, and winning the title by over 400 points over Mark Martin. Earnhardt sealed the deal at Rockingham by winning the race over Rick Mast. Although Earnhardt continued to dominate in the seasons ahead, this proved to be the last Winston Cup title of his career.
Earnhardt started off the 1995 season by finishing second in the Daytona 500 to Sterling Marlin. He won 5 races in 1995, including his first road course victory at Sears Point. He also won the prestigious Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a win he called the biggest of his career. But in the end, Earnhardt lost the title to Jeff Gordon by just 34 points.
Earnhardt began 1996 with a repeat of 1993 - he dominated Speedweeks only to finish second in the Daytona 500 to Dale Jarrett for a 2nd time. Earnhardt won early in the year, scoring consecutive victories at Rockingham and Atlanta. In late July in the DieHard 500 at Talladega, he was in the points lead and looking for his eighth title despite the departure of crew chief Andy Petree. Late in the race, Ernie Irvan lost control of his #28 Havoline Ford Thunderbird, igniting a frightening crash that saw Earnhardt's #3 Chevrolet hit the tri-oval wall nearly head-on at almost 200 miles per hour. After hitting the wall, Earnhardt's car flipped and slid across the track, in front of race-traffic. His car was hit in the roof and windshield, and the accident led NASCAR to mandate the "Earnhardt Bar", a metal brace located in the center of the windshield that reinforces the roof in case of a similar crash.
Rain-delays had canceled the live telecast of the race and most fans first learned of the accident during the night's sports newscasts. Video of the crash showed what appeared to be a fatal incident, but once medical workers arrived at the car, Earnhardt climbed out and waved to the crowd, refusing to be loaded onto a stretcher despite a broken collarbone, sternum, and shoulder blade. Many thought the incident would end his season early, but Earnhardt refused to give up. The next week at Indianapolis, he started the race but exited the car on the first pit stop, allowing Mike Skinner to take the wheel. When asked, Earnhardt said that vacating the #3 car was the hardest thing he'd ever done. The following weekend at Watkins Glen, he drove the #3 Goodwrench Chevrolet to the fastest time in qualifying, earning the "True Grit" pole. T-shirts emblazoned with Earnhardt's face were quickly printed up, brandishing the caption, "It Hurt So Good." Earnhardt led most of the race and looked to have victory in hand, but fatigue finally took its toll and Earnhardt ending up 6th, behind race winner Geoff Bodine. Earnhardt did not win again in 1996, but he still finished 4th in the standings behind Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett. David Smith departed as crew chief of the #3 team and RCR at the end of the year for personal reasons. Larry McReynolds replaced Smith as crew chief for the #3 Chevrolet.
In the 1997 season, Earnhardt went winless for only the 2nd time in his career. The only (non-points) win came during Speedweeks at Daytona in the Twin 125-mile qualifying race, his record 8th straight win in the event. Once again in the hunt for the Daytona 500 with 10 laps to go, Earnhardt was taken out of the Daytona 500 by a late crash which sent his car upside down on the backstretch. Earnhardt hit the low point of his year when he blacked out early in the Mountain Dew Southern 500 in Darlington, causing him to hit the wall. He was evaluated at a hospital and cleared to race, but the cause of the crash was not identified. Despite no wins (all of Chevrolet's wins were by Hendrick Motorsports -- Pontiac won one race, Ford won every other race in 1997) the RCR team finished the season 5th in the final standings, with no DNF's.
After 20 years of disappointment in the Daytona 500 Earnhardt finally won the race in 1998. He started Speedweeks by winning his Twin 125-mile qualifier race for the ninth straight year. On race day, Dale showed himself to be a contender early. But at halfway, it seemed that Jeff Gordon had the upper hand. But by lap 138, Earnhardt had taken the lead, and thanks to a push by teammate Mike Skinner, he was able to maintain it. Earnhardt beat Bobby Labonte to the checkered flag in the race. Afterwards, there was a large show of respect for Earnhardt, in which every crew member of every team lined pit road to shake his hand as he made his way to Victory Lane. Earnhardt then drove his #3 into the infield grass, starting a trend of post-race celebrations. He spun the car twice, throwing grass and leaving tire tracks in the shape of a #3 in the grass. Earnhardt then spoke about the victory, saying "I have had a lot of great fans and people behind me all through the years and I just can't thank them enough. The Daytona 500 is ours. We won it! We won it! We won it!" Unfortunately, the rest of the season did not go as well. He slipped to 12th in the standings halfway through the season, and Richard Childress decided to make a crew chief change, taking Mike Skinner's crew chief Kevin Hamlin and putting him with Earnhardt while giving Skinner Larry McReynolds. Earnhardt was able to climb back to 8th in the final standings.
Before the 1999 season, fans began discussing Earnhardt's age and speculating that with his son, Dale Jr, getting into racing Earnhardt might be contemplating retirement. Earnhardt swept both races for the year at Talladega, leading most observers to conclude that Earnhardt's talent was limited to the restrictor plate tracks, which requires a unique skill set and an exceptionally powerful car to win. But half-way through the year, Earnhardt began to show some of the old spark. In the August race at Michigan International Speedway, Earnhardt led laps late in the race and nearly pulled off his first win on a non-restrictor plate track since 1996.
One week later, he provided the sport with one of its most controversial moments.
At the August Bristol race, Earnhardt found himself in contention to win his first short track race since Martinsville in 1995. When a caution came out with 15 laps to go, leader Terry Labonte got hit from behind by the lapped car of Darrell Waltrip. His spin put Earnhardt in the lead with 5 cars between him and Labonte with 5 laps to go. Labonte had four fresh tires and Earnhardt was driving on old tires, which made Earnhardt's car considerably slower. Labonte caught Earnhardt and passed him coming to the white flag, but Earnhardt drove hard into turn two, bumping Labonte and spinning him around. Dale went on to collect the win while spectators booed and made obscene gestures. "I didn't try to turn him around, I just wanted to rattle his cage", Earnhardt said of the incident. Earnhardt finished 7th in the standings that year, and looked like a contender again.
In the 2000 season, Earnhardt had a resurgence, which some attributed to neck surgery he underwent to correct a lingering injury from his 1996 Talladega crash. He scored what many considered the 2 most exciting wins of the year - winning by .006 seconds over Bobby Labonte at Atlanta, then gaining seventeen positions in the final four laps to win at Talladega, claiming his only No Bull million dollar bonus. Earnhardt also enjoyed strong second-place runs at Richmond and Martinsville, tracks where he'd struggled through the late '90s. On the strength of these performances, Earnhardt took the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo to 2nd in the standings. However, poor performances at the road course of Watkins Glen, where he wrecked coming out of the innerloop, and mid-pack runs at intermediate tracks like Lowe's and Dover, denied Earnhardt the coveted eighth championship title.
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