Dale Earnhardt scored his only Daytona 500 win 19 years ago
On the 19th anniversary of one of the most iconic triumphs in the history of the Daytona 500, we take a look back at the late Dale Earnhardt’s only win in the Great American Race.
In one of the most famous races in NASCAR history, Earnhardt finally laid to rest years of frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event.
Earnhardt entered the 1998 Daytona 500 having made 19 previous failed attempts to win it. Plus he was on a 59-race winless streak that had some questioning if the driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was coming to the tail end of his incredible career.
He put all that to rest on an incredible day. Earnhardt led 107 laps, including the final 61, en route to his emotional and historic victory.
It was a surprisingly clean race for a restrictor-plate affair – with only three cautions and the first 125 laps run under green-flag conditions.
When it was over, again in one of the most memorable events in NASCAR history, the crews and drivers from all the teams lined up on pit road to congratulate Earnhardt on breaking his 500 slump in his 20th attempt.
Current FOX Sports NASCAR broadcaster Mike Joy, then working for CBS, memorably put the poignant moment into perspective with his play-by-play call as Earnhardt secured the win.
“Twenty years of trying. Twenty years of frustration. Dale Earnhardt will come to the checkered flag to win the Daytona 500! Finally! The most anticipated moment in racing!” Joy exclaimed.
Earnhardt’s winning crew chief was Larry McReynolds, now a FOX Sports NASCAR analyst.
“Dale was like a kid at Christmas, and that was a time where I just wanted to sit back and just watch him,” McReynolds once said of the 1998 victory.
Earnhardt himself admitted the next day that he was still having trouble processing the fact that he had finally won NASCAR’s most prestigious race after all those years of trying.
“I woke up this morning, and I still don’t believe I won the Daytona 500,” he told reporters at the champion’s breakfast.
The 59th running of the Daytona 500 live on FOX is just 11 days away.