Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

On His 20th Try, Dale Earnhardt Finally Exorcised the Demons and Won the Daytona 500. He Also Put an End to His 59-Race Winless Streak. for the No. 3 Car and His Devoted Crew, It Was . . . BLACK SUNDAY Earnhardt Dominant at Daytona

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

On His 20th Try, Dale Earnhardt Finally Exorcised the Demons and Won the Daytona 500. He Also Put an End to His 59-Race Winless Streak. for the No. 3 Car and His Devoted Crew, It Was . . . BLACK SUNDAY Earnhardt Dominant at Daytona

Article excerpt

DAYTONA BEACH -- Dale Earnhardt was going to leave nothing to

chance. Too many sour memories and last-lap calamities haunted

his past.

So with his first Daytona 500 victory just 2.5 miles away, and

the yellow flag in the air, the tormented seven-time Winston Cup

champion did what comes natural: he stomped on the gas.

With a record Daytona International Speedway crowd -- estimated

at 185,000 -- on its feet in approval, Earnhardt turned the

fastest caution lap in race history. This time, the moisture in

his eyes on Lap 200 signaled the end of 19 years of frustration

in his sport's greatest event.

"I was overcome, to say the least," Earnhardt said. "I knew

nobody could pass unless the car gave out. I was driving slow

down the backstretch and I said, `Heck, I'm going to go fast so

I can get back around there and take the checkered.' "

Making his way through a pit road gauntlet of glad hands from

rival teams to Victory Lane, Earnhardt kicked off NASCAR's 50th

anniversary celebration with a spin through the infield grass.

No one could have scripted this any better.

Turning in one of the most dominant performances in race

history, the dominant driver of his era closed the books on a

59-race winless streak and those who had wondered whether his

time had passed.

"We came to Daytona with that look in our eye and we won; we

conquered it," Earnhardt said. "And now we won't have to answer

it again."

On his way to a NASCAR-record winner's purse in excess of $1

million, Earnhardt had all the answers, winning the third

fastest 500 in history.

He sealed the victory by holding off hard charges by Bobby

Labonte and Rusty Wallace, as they raced back to the yellow and

white flags after John Andretti and Lake Speed brought out the

caution flag with a Turn 2 spin on Lap 198. Using the lapped car

of Rick Mast as a personal guide, Earnhardt held his line to the

finish.

More importantly, he simply had the best car in the field of 43

for the 40th running of the Great American Race, leading 107 of

200 laps.

Earnhardt's last pass came on Lap 140 and it was every bit

worthy of his "Intimidator" moniker. …

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