Formula One
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 Tuesday, October 17
Earnhardt takes another Talladega checkered flag
 Associated Press

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Forget the rules. If it's Talladega Superspeedway, Dale Earnhardt knows how to win.

The Intimidator, who loudly proclaims to dislike restrictor-plate racing, charged through a crowd at 185 mph, racing from 18th to first in four laps, then held off the desperate efforts of Kenny Wallace and Joe Nemechek to win Sunday's Winston 500.

Dale Earnhardt is showered with confetti after winnning the Winston 500.

Earnhardt, who led seven times for 34 of the 188 laps, fell victim to the shifting fortunes of a race in which upwards of 25 cars were constantly battling in a pack at the front of the field and there were 49 lead changes among 21 drivers.

After the leaders pitted during the last of three caution periods in the race, the 49-year-old Earnhardt, chasing series leader Bobby Labonte for what would be a record eighth Winston Cup championship, found himself 15th for the restart on lap 174.

In heavy traffic, often long lines of speeding cars running three-wide on the 33-degree banked oval, Earnhardt slipped back to 18th by lap 183.

Suddenly, the crowd of more than 140,000 -- many of them longtime Earnhardt fans _ was on their feet, screaming as the black and orange No. 3 Chevrolet began to slice through traffic and move toward the front.

"I was very frustrated, but I was also very lucky," Earnhardt said. "I kept working outside and it didn't work. It got three-wide and it didn't work. So I started working the middle.

"I kept working the middle, kept working the middle and it started working."

At the end of lap 186, he trailed teammate Mike Skinner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Labonte.

By the time the lead pack got back to the finish line, Earnhardt was in the lead, just ahead of his son. As the leaders began lap 188, Dale Jr. wiggled and slowed just enough to hold up the inside lane and let his father, Wallace and Nemechek get a little breathing room on the field.

It was over at that point, with Earnhardt beating Wallace's Chevy to the line by about two car-lengths, earning his record 10th Talladega victory and fourth in this event.

In fact, he has now won three of the last four races here and finished third in April in the Talladega 500.

His 76th career victory and second of the season also gained Earnhardt a $1 million bonus from the series sponsor.

The inevitable big Talladega crash actually came after the checkered flag fell as Rich Bickle and Ward Burton, racing near the rear of the big lead pack, banged together just past the finish line and ignited a melee that wound up involving four cars.

Nobody was injured in that wreck or in the one other crash, involving Mark Martin and Bobby Hamilton, and the relatively clean race vindicated NASCAR's 11th-hour rule change.

NASCAR has required power-sapping carburetor restrictor plates at this track since 1988 and has adjusted horsepower production by reducing and increasing the holes in the plates.

In an effort to give the drivers more power to get out of tight situations and help them keep up in the draft, the sanctioning body ordered the plates opened up from seven-eighths of an inch to one inch. But that produced too much speed in practice on Saturday morning and NASCAR took the unprecedented step of making a major rule change between the end of qualifying and the final practice session.

"How could NASCAR do a better job," Wallace said. "It came down to the last half lap. I looked right (into the stands) one time and saw everybody standing. I don't think the rules can get any better."

Asked about the late rule change, Earnhardt laughed and said, "I don't like restrictor plate racing and I never have."

Nevertheless, his latest restrictor-plate win, combined with Labonte's 12th-place finish, moved Earnhardt past Jeff Burton into second place and sliced 42 points off Labonte's lead. With four races remaining, Labonte, aiming for his first title, is ahead by 210 points.

Burton, who was never in contention and finished a lap down in 29th, fell to third, 308 points behind Labonte.

Jeff Gordon, who won here in April, also came from well back in the pack to finish fourth, followed by Terry Labonte, Skinner, Martin and Rusty Wallace.


Winston 500 results

 Dale Earnhardt and Andy Pilgrim join host John Kernan on the set of RPM 2Night.
RealVideo: 28.8

 Kenny Wallace talks with RPM 2Night host John Kernan about his second-place finish in the Winston 500.
RealVideo: 28.8

 Dale Earnhardt takes the checkered flag in Sunday's Winston 500 in classic fashion.
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RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Dale Earnhardt roars pass Kenny Wallace to take the lead with two laps remaining.
avi: 2587 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Dale Earnhardt will not be denied the lead as he rumbles through traffic in Talladega.
avi: 2271 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 ESPN's Matt Yocum interviews Winston 500 winner Dale Earnhardt.
RealVideo: 28.8

 Talladega was a success for everyone. ESPN's Matt Yocum reports.
RealVideo: 28.8

 Dale Earnhardt thanks Kenny Wallace for helping him win the Winston 500.
wav: 216 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Dale Earnhardt talks about winning the Winston bonus $1 million dollar prize.
wav: 175 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Kenny Wallace recaps his battle for the checkerd flag with Dale Earnhardt in the Winston 500.
wav: 312 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Joe Nemechek talks about his third place finish in Sunday's Winton 500.
wav: 205 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 The action at Talladega was intense for Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 car.
wav: 91 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6