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FT. WORTH, Tex.—Carl Edwards powered his way to victory in Sunday’s Samsung 500 at Texas for his third win of the season. The driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Ford thoroughly dominated the 335-lap race.
“The reason we won it was because of all the good, hard work the team has done,” Edwards said. “This was fun. That’s what it’s about. Hopefully we can come back here in November and sweep this thing.”
Edwards’ two other victories this season came at California and Las Vegas.
All the Roush Fords have struggled at short tracks, but Edwards’ performance Sunday showed they are the cars to beat on the intermediate tracks. Before the last caution came out on lap 329, which sent the race into extra laps, Edwards had a 2-second lead over the second place car driven by Jimmie Johnson.
“He was better than me at the end,” said Johnson. “I’m just glad of the gap that we were able to close.”
Johnson moved from 10th to 6th in the points.
Kyle Busch, winner of Saturday’s Nationwide race, finished third.
“It was on edge all day long,” said Busch. “It’s hard to make one drive right. We had a razor blade. We’d fall on one side or the other. We just couldn’t get it right.”
Ryan Newman, the Daytona 500 winner, came home fourth.
“It was hot,” Newman said. “We might need to go back to driving convertibles so we can get some more air to the drivers. It was tough out there. It’s definitely back in the drivers’ hands.”
Jeff Gordon is still seeking his first Texas win. He slid backwards quickly from his 18th-place starting spot while battling an ill-handling car. He spun alone off Turn 4 before going to the garage area for adjustments. Gordon finished 43rd and dropped outside the all-important top-12 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings after entering the day in ninth.
“I can’t remember the last time we struggled this bad,” Gordon said. “I wish I had an answer for you. I don’t.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the opening 13 laps from the pole but faded midway through the race as the handling on his No. 88 Chevrolet began to deteriorate. He lost a lap on lap 266 and struggled the rest of the way en route to a 12th-place finish.
Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton, who entered the race with a 39-point cushion over RCR teammate Kevin Harvick, remains the points leader.
Denny Hamlin, Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Top-12 Chase Contenders after 7 of 36: 1. Burton-1065, 2. Harvick-1006, 3. Kyle Busch-1001, 4. Earnhardt-978, 5. Stewart-957, 6. Johnson-921, 7. Hamlin-913, 8. Newman-901, 9. Biffle-901, 10. Edwards-881, 11. Bowyer-874, 12, Kahne-874
Top-10 Nationwide Series leaders after 7 of 35: 1. Bowyer-1047, 2. Edwards-990, 3. Reutimann-927, 4. Ragan-913, 5. Kyle Busch-888, 6. Keselowski-879, 7. Bliss-848, 8. Leffler-841, 9. Bires-820, 10. Harvick-817
Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders after 4 of 25: 1. Kyle Busch-645, 2. Bodine-610, 3. Hornaday-580, 4. Setzer-578, 5. Crawford-576, 6. Crafton-539, 7. Starr-534, 8. Darnell-527, 9. Benson-501, 10. Cook-499
OF DALE EARNHARDT SR.
“We raced hard,” Bill Elliott said. “More than once he bumped me off the track. And I probably got into him several times. We respected each other, and in my opinion, that is what it’s all about.
“He was a man of his word. His word was as good as gold to me, and he did whatever he could for you, when you needed something. That said an awful lot about his character.”
Dale Earnhardt was born April 29, 1951, in Kannapolis, a small town just north of Charlotte. He was the third child of Ralph and Martha Earnhardt.
His father, Ralph, was also a racer, and usually drove car No. 8. He built his own engines, transmissions and chassis, and raced up to five nights a week. He earned his living from working on other people’s cars and racing.
Ralph was mostly a local hero, but he was the 1956 NASCAR Sportsman champion and was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Dale had an early love for cars. He could usually be found working in his father’s garage, right next to their home. By the time he was 10, he traveled to local races with his father.
He quit school at the age of 16.
“My daddy didn’t want me to quit,” Earnhardt said in 1998. “He didn’t have much of an education and always preached to me the need of staying in school. I was hard-headed. At 16, I thought I was old enough to decide what I wanted in life.
“Daddy was very disappointed in me.”
His father remained angry at him for several years and did not help him break into racing. It wasn’t until he was 19 that he got the opportunity to race one of his brother-in-law’s (David Oliver) cars.
The first car Dale drove was a pink, 1956 Ford Sedan. Yes, it was pink. The story goes that the car owner wanted to mix a purple paint, but the color came out pink. “K-2” was painted on the doors, along with the word “Dale.” His first race was in 1970 at the old half-mile Concord speedway.
Dale didn’t drive the pink car long. He was able to find other rides, but by this time he was married, and his oldest son, Kerry, had been born in December 1969. Racing never brought in enough money to pay the bills, and Dale often worked day jobs in local garages.
Racing was his priority; marriage and family life was not. In less than two years, the marriage ended in divorce.
Dale remarried a short time after his first divorce. In 1972, his daughter Kelley was born. Two years later, Dale Jr. was born. Like in his previous marriage, the family lived in a succession of apartments and trailers, always trying to avoid the bill collectors.
In 1973, his father died in the family kitchen at the age of 45 of a heart attack. His death was a shock to Dale.
In 1974 he was able to buy a used Winston Cup car from Harry Gant and began racing in NASCAR’s Sportsman division. The Sportsman was comparable to the Nationwide Series, but back then it was not as organized. However, it was a major step up and opened the door for his 1975 Cup debut.
Dale Earnhardt’s race to the top.
The Cup and Nationwide Series teams have night races at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway. The Craftsman Trucks do not race again until April 26.
Fri., Apr. 11, Nationwide Bashas Supermarket 300; Starting time: 9:30 p.m. (EST); TV: ESPN2.
Sat., Apr. 12, Sprint Cup Subway Fresh Fit 500; Starting time: 8 p.m. (EST); TV: Fox; Distance: 500 laps; Defending champion: Jeff Gordon.
Racing Trivia Question: Does Richard Childress plan on adding a fourth Cup team in 2009?
Last Week’s Question: How did Dale Sr. come to be tagged with the name, “Intimidator?” Answer. In the late 1980s, an Earnhardt T-shirt with the word “Dominator” on it wasn’t selling very well. A vendor named Hank Jones decided to change it to “Intimidator.” Earnhardt had reservations about it, but gave the OK to print some. Sales took off. The name stuck. The rest is history.
GERALD HODGES is a Beacon correspondent. You may contact the Racing Reporter at: firstname.lastname@example.org.