Race Tales: Celebrating Ten Years of NASCAR Memories (2001)

Here, in its unedited entirety, is "Race Tales," a story I wrote in late 2001. On this page, you will find out more about my NASCAR fandom than you ever would care to know; it surprises me in hindsight! I have yet to revise it at all since then, but while I might update it later on, I felt the need to post it in the meantime. All 23 segments are included and presented to be read from top-to-bottom, including ten race reviews and the original side-notes written to aid its flow.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Race 5: Save Mart 300 at Sears Point - May 7, 1995

In 1995, Rookie of the Year candidate Ricky Craven from Maine became my second favorite driver. I enjoyed, just as I do now, hearing about emerging drivers in the sport and wished Craven the best in his inaugural season. Miles had also begun supporting another driver just the year before.

That driver’s name was Dale Earnhardt.

Miles admired Earnhardt’s aggressive driving skills and ubiquitous presence in victory lane. Earnhardt had always maintained these trends as it was obvious to all in those years that he was the man to beat on race day in his black Chevrolet. However, on the day of the 1995 Save Mart 300, the third our family had gone to, I remember reading an article in the paper saying that Earnhardt was "incapable of turning left and right" which struck me as odd considering how experienced he was. I was truly excited on race day when I noticed that Ricky Rudd would start on the pole for this event, believing he would finish there. I had still not witnessed any of Rudd’s wins, and while this looked like it was going to be the first, it turned out to become an even more important first.

Like the same event in 1992, I best remember the winning pass. Mark Martin was still leading the race, having been out front for quite some time. Then, Miles and I noticed that Earnhardt, running second, was closing the interval very quickly with only about ten laps to go. The crowd cheered Earnhardt on every time he drove by us on the frontstretch, closely monitoring the large video screen to see what progress he was making on other parts of the track. Then, with only a few laps to go, when the leaders were in the sweeping "carousel turn" at the far end of the track, we saw on the screen Martin’s car slip up the track a little as Earnhardt closed in, dove down to the inside, and took the lead at the exit of the corner. At that moment, the crowd literally exploded into cheers!

When Earnhardt entered the hairpin to lead that lap, which was actually the next-to-last, the crowd was still in a frenzy, waving and applauding the black number three, gradually increasing in intensity as Earnhardt continued to pull away from Martin. When Earnhardt came around that final time, he skidded a little bit in the last turn and still crossed the stripe a healthy margin over second-place Martin. It was, by far, the most excited I have ever seen the crowd at Sears Point. Everyone around us, even fans of other drivers such as myself, were standing and applauding long after that final lap!


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