NASCAR: Earnhardt Yearns for Second Victory at the Brickyard
28 July 1998INDIANAPOLIS, -- Dale Earnhardt has always run stock cars, and done it with quite a bit of success through the years.
Earnhardt, son of NASCAR legend Ralph Earnhardt, literally grew up with the sport and has become one of stock car's all-time great drivers. Some say Earnhardt, 47, is the greatest steering-wheel jockey in NASCAR history.
His Winston Cup credentials are impeccable. Earnhardt has 71 career victories, including the 1998 Daytona 500, and seven NASCAR Winston Cup Series championships, which ties him with Richard Petty.
He's the only driver to win Winston Cup's rookie-of-the-year title and series championship in back-to-back years (1979-80).
Most of his wins have come with Richard Childress Racing. Earnhardt and Childress have worked together since 1984 and combined for 64 victories.
One of the highlights of Earnhardt's career was winning the Brickyard 400 in 1995, the second year the NASCAR Winston Cup Series called on the historic 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"It was probably one of the biggest wins we've had until we won the Daytona 500 this year," Earnhardt said. "Winning their second Brickyard 400 was a heck of deal. There's still only four winners there. Nobody's won it twice."
Earnhardt's roots may run deep in stock car racing, but he's always held a special place in his heart for Indianapolis Motor Speedway, racing's most storied venue.
His goal is to become the first driver to bag two Brickyard 400 titles and just the second to win both the Daytona 500 and Brickyard in the same year. Dale Jarrett won Winston Cup's two most lucrative events in 1996.
The fifth annual Brickyard 400 is Aug. 1.
"I'd like to win it a second time to be the first two-time winner," said Earnhardt. "Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a special place. The Brickyard 400 is a special race. There's a lot of history about the place. The Indianapolis 500 is still a big race to me, so running the Brickyard there is just as important."
Earnhardt was so eager to run at Indy that at one point in his career he considered filing an entry for the Indianapolis 500. Up until five years ago, no one thought NASCAR would hold a race at the track.
"I never pondered it very much," said Earnhardt of running a Winston Cup race at Indy. "As we went on there through the years, I was entertained to run an Indy car and run the Indy 500, but I never did do it.
"I didn't have the time, or never the right situation or whatever. I ended up going in a Winston Cup car and winning there, so we're part of Indy history."
Earnhardt likes Indy's unique layout -- a distinct rectangle with relatively flat turns.
"It's not the toughest racetrack we race on, but aerodynamically, it's an interesting racetrack," Earnhardt said. "It's competitive."
Earnhardt will make more racing history July 31 when he competes in the first International Race of Champions (IROC) race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The field of 12 all-star drivers from various forms of racing will decide this year's IROC championship at Indy. Once Earnhardt finishes his IROC business, he'll focus his attention on the Brickyard 400.
"That's the next goal," he said. "That's the important thing. To be the first two-time winner, would be just as good as being the first winner, really."
BRICKYARD 400 NOTEBOOK
Event schedule: The fifth annual Brickyard 400 starts at 12:15 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 1. Pole Day qualifying starts at 1:30 p.m. July 30. Qualifying for starting positions 26-36 begins at noon July 31.
The first practice session will take place from 1-5 p.m. (CDT) July 29. Practice continues from 9:30 a.m.-noon and 4-4:45 p.m. July 30. Final practice occurs from 3:30-4:30 p.m. July 31.