Volume III, Issue 2, Page 10

NEWS & ANALYSIS

Dale Earnhardt’s Daytona 500 Win – 10 Years Later

Richard Childress and Teresa Earnhardt were guests of the speedway in the recognition of the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s historic win in the 1998 Daytona 500. To celebrate the event, Childress brought a new Chevy Impala SS done up in the old Childress/Earnhardt no. 3 black and silver Goodwrench Service Plus colors. Following the press conference, Childress discussed his memories of Dale Earnhardt’s emotional 1998 Daytona 500 win, the lucky penny, some history of the Great American Race, and more.

MAXCHEVY: Back then, Dale Earnhardt had so many disappointments. What was the attitude coming into Daytona in 1998? Did you think you would never win it?
RC: “No, if you keep trying long enough, you’re going to win. We knew sooner or later the odds had to get in our favor. For 20 times you know, those odds had to come in our favor. We just felt good that day. It was one of those deals that when the caution happened right there at the end and back then you could race back, and he beat them back with one or two (laps) to go there. I looked at [crew chief, Larry] McReynolds and I said, ‘We’ve been here before.’ And about that time the caution came out and he was able to beat them back and win the race.”

MAXCHEVY: Dale Earnhardt Sr. raced guys hard but when he finally won that race, everybody was there to congratulate him.
RC: “Well, I think everybody wanted to see him win it; even the competitors. You seen what happened on pit road, but afterwards a lot of drivers came by winner’s circle, and a lot of them called and congratulated me and him both and it was just really neat to have the competitors respond after a win like that.”

MAXCHEVY: Was that relief or joy or a combination of both?
RC: “Both. It was one of those deals when you had been so close so many times. He’d won everything. We’d won everything you could win. And then to finally be able to put that (Daytona) 500 together, it was just unbelievable.”

MAXCHEVY: What about the lucky penny?

RC:“A young lady, before the race, came up to Dale Sr. and gave him a penny. And right before the race he asked one of the guys to bring him some yellow glue, that was the old 3M glue and he glued it on the dash. And that’s where it’s still at today with the same glue and everything.  It could have been a Make A Wish deal. She was in a wheelchair.”

MAXCHEVY: Did you think you’d tried everything else and you might as well go with one last lucky charm?
RC: “I think we had used every lucky charm we could. That one worked that day. To win the race and have the penny there and have a little girl involved was pretty special. It was emotional.”

MAXCHEVY: Did you ever get the lucky penny back?
RC: “It never left. It’s on the dashboard. It’s been on the car the whole time. It left the museum with it. That car is in the museum in Welcome [RCR shop] in NC and it has the lucky penny on it. A couple of years ago we brought the little lady who gave Dale the penny to the museum. I took the wheel off and sat her down in the car. It was pretty amazing.”

MAXCHEVY: What will you do with this Impala SS display car?
RC: “It’s going to be on display here at the Speedway [DIS]. It’s something to show the old and the new and 10 years later to show and celebrate his win. Its 10 years later. We’ve got plenty of the other cars. We’re going to have one of the cars here Sunday for the event next week. But we’ll also have this car on display and everybody can see what the old black No. 3 would have looked like in the new Impala SS.”

MAXCHEVY: With all the things Dale Earnhardt Sr, had won, do you think he really needed that one?
RC: “He wanted it real bad. And to see him finally get it was the most rewarding part of it.”

MAXCHEVY: When you think back 10 years ago to that win, did it really matter how many more you might win because of the struggle it took to win that one?
RC: “Yeah, it’s just like championships. Dale and I never talked about just winning seven; we always talked about winning eight or nine. It’s the same thing with the 500. We came back to try to win it. We’d been in position after ’98 when we were sitting there with hopefully a chance to win.”

MAXCHEVY: Other than that, what other memories are special about the Daytona 500?
RC: “Just going into it that morning and talking about some strategy and things we wanted to try to get done that day to be in a position to win at the end of the day. We knew we had a good car going into it. We knew he could get the job done. It was just if things would play our way and we’d have no cut tires or running out of gas or turning over.”