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Earnhardt Holds Indy At Bay

People close to Dale Earnhardt say the Winston Cup driver has been contacted by more than one Indy-car team in an attempt to lure the seventime champion to race in the Indianapolis 500 in May.

It’s true that John Andretti did race in both the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and at Indy on the same day last year, and that current Winston Cup rookie Davy Jones wants to do the same this year, but Earnhardt says he isn’t interested.

Although fellow stock car stars Bill Elliott, Kyle Petty and Geoff Bodine all have tried out the seat of an Indy car in recent years in brief tests, the two-time defending series champion never has driven one of the opencockpit racers and says he doesn’t plan to do it any time soon.

But, reportedly, the money being offered - already a huge sum - keeps going up.

So, stay tuned.

Hot hand

As disappointed as Earnhardt is to have failed for the 17th straight year to win the Daytona 500, the seventime Winston Cup champion did get off to a great start in his effort to equal the three straight series titles Cale Yarborough won in 1976-78.

His second-place finish on Sunday - his third runner-up performance in the 500 - gave Earnhardt nine top-five finishes in his last 11 Winston Cup starts.

Earnhardt’s only failures in that period came in the penultimate race last season at Phoenix, where an engine failure relegated him to a 40th-place finish, and a seventh-place finish in September at North Wilkesboro, Pa.

Waltrip’s worry

Darrell Waltrip, who was so confident about his chances at a win or at least a very good finish in the Daytona 500, had to settle for finishing 32nd after his transmission blew during a pit stop late in the race.

The three-time Winston Cup champion has not finished that far back since a 37th-place showing at Talladega, Ala., in July 1993. That’s 44 races.

“We had a great week, but when I dropped the clutch and it didn’t move, my heart almost quit beating,” Waltrip said. “I was so sad, I wanted to cry.”

Tough Terry

The eighth-place finish by Terry Labonte in the Daytona 500 is just another in a long string of strong performances in the season-opening race by the 1984 Winston Cup champion.

Labonte has now finished the Daytona 500 in the top 10 in nine of his 17 career starts. The best of five top-five finishes was second at the start of his championship season.

“It’s any driver’s dream to win the Daytona 500, and I’m certainly no exception,” said Labonte, who accumulated more points than anyone but eventual champion Dale Earnhardt during the second half of 1994. “But it’s also important to get the season off to a good start, so this was a good start for the Hendrick Motorsports team.”

Actually, Labonte and his team just picked up where it left off at the end of last season, finishing with five top-10s in the final six events.


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