The win that eluded Dale Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. might have won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, but it was a previous race he lost at the 2-mile track that still burns him to this day.
After celebrating his win in the LifeLock 400 on Father's Day, Earnhardt Jr. looked back at the 1999 IROC event in which he competed against his father at MIS.
"That's one race that doesn't get much play. But, damn it, have y'all ever watched it?" Earnhardt Jr. asked in the MIS press conference room on Sunday.
Michigan was the site of the third event of IROC XXIII and Earnhardt Jr. lined up second on the grid. After winning the first two races at Daytona and Talladega the elder Earnhardt started from the back of the pack in 12th.
He quickly drove his blue Pontiac IROC machine to the front, taking the lead on lap 27.
As the race approached the final laps "The Intimidator" had a mirror full of the red Pontiac driven by Dale Jr.
"I'm telling you, it bothers the hell out of me because I sat behind him and he waved and waved telling me to stay there. And, I'm like, 'Man I've got to run my own race here. There’s only 12 of us out here, can't you fend for yourself,'" Earnhardt Jr. said.
On the final lap, Earnhardt Jr. took a peek under his father in Turn 2, but his father closed the door. On the final turn, Junior swung to the high side and the father-and-son duo raced side-by-side to the checkered flag. In the end, it was the elder Earnhardt taking the win by 0.007 seconds over his son.
"I sat there like a good son until the last lap and put a good move on him and he never gave me any credit for that because he knew I had (him)," Earnhardt Jr. said.
"I had worked like 10 men on that last lap."
When the pack crossed the finish line, "The Intimidator" had the car of Rusty Wallace on his tail.
"It burns (me) to this day that Rusty Wallace pushed him by me, because I wanted to beat my daddy so bad," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I had him, and he knew it."
Although Junior didn't make the trip to Victory Lane, that race ranks right up there with his favorites.
"I'm surprised that didn't get more play when people talk about me and him and our friendship, our relationship as father and son because to me, that day ranks right up there with the Winston win."
Earnhardt Jr. will try to make it two in-a-row at MIS when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns on August 17 for the 3M Performance 400 presented by Bondo. Tickets and camping are available by calling 800-354-1010 or visiting MISpeedway.com.
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