Puneet Varma

1998 Daytona 500

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1998 Daytona 500
Date  February 15, 1998 (1998-02-15)
Location  Daytona International Speedway Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.
Course  Permanent racing facility 2.5 mi (4.02336 km)
Distance  200 laps, 500 mi (804.672 km)
Weather  Chilly with temperatures up to 70 °F (21 °C); wind speeds up to 14 miles per hour (23 km/h)
Average speed  172.712 miles per hour (277.953 km/h)

The 1998 Daytona 500, the 40th running of the event, was held on February 15 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida as the first race of the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup season. It was memorable in that it marked Dale Earnhardt's only Daytona 500 victory after 19 previous attempts and many heartbreaking finishes. Not only was it Earnhardt's 20th 500 start, but also CBS's 20th consecutive live broadcast of the Daytona 500. Also, his long-awaited Daytona 500 win snapped a 59-race winless streak dating back to Atlanta Motor Speedway in March 1996.

Contents

The race was remarkably clean for a restrictor plate race. There were only three cautions - all of which were for minor incidents (as well, there were no accident-related retirements), and there was a pit stop incident involving Dale Jarrett, Jeff Burton and Derrike Cope but no caution was waved. The race was run under the green flag for the first 125 laps. This resulted in it being the second-fastest Daytona 500 ever, behind the 1980 Daytona 500 won by Buddy Baker, and the fastest of the restrictor plate era.

Background

Daytona International Speedway is a race track in Daytona Beach, Florida that is one of six superspeedways to hold NASCAR races, the others being Michigan International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway. The standard track at Daytona is a four-turn superspeedway that is 2.5 miles (4.0 km) long. The track also features two other layouts that utilize portions of the primary high speed tri-oval, such as a 3.56-mile (5.73 km) sports car course and a 2.95-mile (4.75 km) motorcycle course. The track's 180-acre (73 ha) infield includes the 29-acre (12 ha) Lake Lloyd, which has hosted powerboat racing. The speedway is owned and operated by International Speedway Corporation.

The track was built by NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. to host racing that was being held at the former Daytona Beach Road Course and opened with the first Daytona 500 in 1959. The speedway has been renovated three times, with the infield renovated in 2004, and the track repaved in 1978 and 2010.

The Daytona 500 is regarded as the most important and prestigious race on the NASCAR calendar. It is also the series' first race of the year; this phenomenon is virtually unique in sports, which tend to have championships or other major events at the end of the season rather than the start. Since 1995, U.S. television ratings for the Daytona 500 have been the highest for any auto race of the year, surpassing the traditional leader, the Indianapolis 500 which in turn greatly surpasses the Daytona 500 in in-track attendance and international viewing. The 2006 Daytona 500 attracted the sixth largest average live global TV audience of any sporting event that year with 20 million viewers.

Qualifying

Bobby Labonte won the pole position for the Daytona 500 with a time a 46.776 seconds, and his brother Terry qualified on the outside pole position next to him. Sterling Marlin qualified third winning the first Gatorade Twin 125 and Dale Earnhardt qualified fourth winning the second Twin 125.

Pre-race buildup

The race began with emphasis on NASCAR's 50th Anniversary Celebration. The pre-race show on CBS featured some of the greatest Daytona 500 finishes in recent memory. It also detailed the famous Daytona Beach Road Course and it featured Russ Truelove, Buck Baker, Tim Flock, Red Farmer and Junior Johnson on the Daytona Beach with one of Tim Flock's old "Full Jeweled" #300 Chryslers.

Kansas Governor Bill Graves gave the command for drivers to start their engines and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino waved the green flag to start the race.

Caution #1

In the mid stage of the event, green flag pit stops were still in progress with Jeff Gordon leading, and were on pace of breaking the average speed of 198. Ward Burton cut down a tire, leaving debris on the track. This would bring out the first caution.

Caution #2

Late in the race with a possibility of a second round of green flag stops, John Andretti and Robert Pressley made contact in turn 2and both spun out, which brought out the second caution. During pit spots, Dale Earnhardt came out first, Michael Waltrip had a penalty after running over a hose while pitting, thus held back at the rear of the pack.

Caution #3 (Lap 198) and finish

Dale Earnhardt led Bobby Labonte and Jeremy Mayfield heading into turn 2. Lake Speed and John Andretti, who already was spun out at the same corner, got together and both cars spun, setting up a scenario where Earnhardt, Labonte, and Mayfield were all in contention for the win. With 1½ laps, the three came up on the lapped car of Rick Mast. Earnhardt easily passed Mast on the outside. Labonte lost Earnhardt's draft while Mayfield sped to the inside of Mast. Earnhardt led Labonte and Mayfield, who were side by side. Earnhardt took the white and yellow flags in first while Labonte edged Mayfield for second by a fender. The race would end under the caution flag.

Quotes

  • "Jean Shepherd once said, 'If horse racing is the sport of kings, then auto racing; this furious, and sometimes brutal game, is the sport of friends. New, or old; come along, friend, and enjoy the Great American Race!'"—Ken Squier during CBS's prerace broadcast.
  • "Earnhardt uses the lap car of Rick Mast to them as the pick...20 years of trying, 20 years of frustration, Dale Earnhardt will come to the caution flag to win the Daytona 500...FINALLY!!!."—Mike Joy commentating the final seconds of the Daytona 500.
  • "Look, out on pit road! Every man on every crew has come out to the edge of pit lane to congratulate the man who has dominated everything there is to win in this sport, except this race; until today."—Mike Joy on the crew members congratulating Dale Earnhardt on his Daytona 500 victory.
  • "The most anticipated moment in the history of motor racing, Dale Earnhardt rolling into Victory Lane in the Daytona 500"—Mike Joy during the broadcast
  • "Dale was like a kid at Christmas, and there was a time where I just wanted to sit back and just watch him"--Larry McReynolds on Earnhardt's win.
  • "It took ten years off my life, if I had made that race, I would have lived another ten years"—Rick Mast on missing the 1997 Daytona 500 after making the 1998 race.
  • "The Daytona 500 is ours. We won it, we won it, we won it!" Dale Earnhardt in victory lane during a post race interview
  • "The 20-year quest is over"—Ken Squier in victory lane after Dale Earnhardt's makes the entrance to victory lane.
  • "It will make the strongest man on earth cry when you win this race, it's really special.--Buddy Baker on Earnhardt's win.
  • References

    1998 Daytona 500 Wikipedia


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