I Dream of Daytona (Part 2)


Dang, missed part 1? 1991-Running Wide Open

Dang, missed part 1?

1991-Running Wide Open

Ernie Irvan’s car was running fast, he qualified second to Davey Allison, 100th of a second short of the pole position, he knew he was in the hunt and he was hungry. “Swervin’ Irvan” had a rep for being reckless so no one wanted to work with him, but his car was running faster on its own than those with drafting partners. With five laps to go, Irvan gunned right by Dale Earnhardt on a restart following a caution, won the race, and showed NASCAR what he was made of.

1997- 1-2-3-Sweep!

Rick Hendrick was ill with leukemia. Before Daytona he made a wish that his racing team (Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, and Ricky Craven) would finish one-two-three. NASCAR hadn’t seen a sweep since the 50s. With eleven laps remaining, Bill Elliot held the lead with Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon in hot pursuit dueling for the two-spot. Going into turn-two Earnhardt was running dangerously close to the outside wall. Common sense would be to concede to Gordon and avoid slamming into solid concrete at 190 mph. Earnhardt didn’t flinch, hit the wall, and bounced back into Gordon who straightened out and got away. Earnhardt lost control and wrecked taking out Dale Jarrett and Ernie Irvan with him. On the restart Bill Elliot still led but he had three Hendricks cars behind him, the physics of NASCAR and a sick man’s wish against him.

1998- Bye- bye Monkey

Going into the race 0-19, a mystique had arisen around Earnhardt on par with the Red Sox old curse of the bambino—many fans believed he would never win this race. But when you’re due, you’re due and this time it was Jeff Gordon who felt cursed as a blown engine with three laps to go prevented him from going back-to-back. With a stuffed monkey tucked into his driving uniform on the winner’s podium, Earnhardt crowed “I’m here…I’ve finally got that goddamn monkey off my back,” before flinging the plush toy at reporters.

1999- Perfect Circles

Considered one of the best driving performance in motorsports history, Gordon ran a perfect race holding off forty hard-chargers relentlessly attacking him from all sides and then in the grand finale Gordon staved off Dale Earnhardt and Mike Skinner in a hair raising game of high-speed aero-push chess.

2001 Black Sunday

There were 50 lead changes and a nineteen car injury-free smash’em’up the day the engines died. It would have been just another awesome running of America’s race had America’s favorite race car driver not perished tragically in an accident on the fourth turn of the final lap. Earnhardt was tapped from behind by an onrushing Sterling Marlin whom he was trying to block, just a little contact, the kind the Intimidator himself had employed so many times, but this bump in a blink of an eye sent Earnhardt hood-first into the concrete wall where he would then bare the brunt of Ken Shrader’s car smashing into his right side.

2002- “Sterling Memories”
Sterling Marlin was leading with six laps to go and Jeff Gordon had just spun out to halt the race. Sterling got out of his Dodge to pull away a damaged fender violating a NASCAR rule prohibiting anyone form working on a car during a red-flag period. The transgression sent Sterling back to tail end of the lead lap allowing Ward Burton to take the checkered flag. Sterling claimed to have seen Earnhardt pull a similar stunt at Richmond in 1987 but NASCAR officials have no memory of that ever happening.

2007 Preview

FEBRUARY 18, 2007:
NASCAR’s season opening Speedweek concludes with left-turn racing’s rubber-burning holy grail. Defending champ Jimmie Johnson is still riding high on his first series title but rest assured fan favourites Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon will be chomping on his bumper. American autos Chevy, Dodge and Ford are no longer guaranteed a winner as Toyota sticks its Camry into the Nextel Cup fray. While many fans fear NASCAR’s Japanese turn will hurt the sport you don’t have to look too far to find drivers with a more open-minded perspective. “You can go to Beirut to buy a Whopper. Why can’t you come from Tokyo and race in America,” opined 2001 & 2003 500 winner Michael Waltrip who will race in a Camry.

Copyright © Mike Dojc 2007

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