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The Daytona 500. The Great American Race. The Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing. There are many names for the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series season. And, as you probably know, there are even more incredible memories.

While we could go on and on about special Daytona 500 moments from over the years, Dale Earnhardt‘s first Daytona 500 win — and only Daytona 500 win — is on another level of special. If you were a NASCAR fan in the late ’90s, you probably remember that day like it was yesterday.

By the time the 1998 Daytona 500 rolled around, it was the Intimidator’s 20th run of the race. He had accomplished just about everything a NASCAR driver could dream of by then, including seven NASCAR Cup Championships. And yet, he had yet to see the checkered flag at the inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Daytona Beach, Florida, despite having finished second on four different occasions and landed within the top five eight different times.

But, I guess 20 was his lucky number.

Dale Earnhardt Wins the 1998 Daytona 500

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As far as restrictor plate races go, it was a relatively smooth race. There were no major accidents, the race was run under the green flag for the first 125 laps, and there were only three caution flags. This resulted in the second-fastest running of The Great American Race at the time.

Though Jeff Gordon put everyone on notice with a promising push about halfway through the race, Earnhardt came away with the victory at Daytona International Speedway pretty handily. The Intimidator dominated, leading for 107 laps in his iconic Goodwrench race car.

Following Dale’s big win, CBS’s Mike Joy famously said, “The most anticipated moment in the history of motor racing, Dale Earnhardt rolling into Victory Lane in the Daytona 500.”

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The victory lane celebration for Senior was incredible, with every crew member of every team lining up to shake Mr. Restrictor Plate’s hand.

“I have had a lot of great fans and people behind me all through the years and I just can’t thank them enough,” Earnhardt said immediately following the win. “The Daytona 500 is ours. We won it, we won it, we won it!”

Though the rest of the 1998 season would not go well for Dale Earnhardt Sr. (with Daytona being his only win that year), his victory at the 1998 Daytona was a historic moment for the Hall of Fame member’s career and a historic moment for NASCAR.

1998 Daytona 500 Results

1. Dale Earnhardt — Richard Childress Racing — No. 3 Chevrolet
2. Bobby Labonte — Joe Gibbs Racing — No. 18 Pontiac
3. Jeremy Mayfield — Penske-Kranefuss Racing — No. 12 Ford
4. Ken Schrader — Andy Petree Racing — No. 33 Chevrolet
5. Rusty Wallace — Penske-Kranefuss Racing — No. 2 Ford
6. Ernie Irvan — MB2 Motorsports — No. 36 Pontiac
7. Chad Little — Roush Racing — No. 97 Ford
8. Mike Skinner — Richard Childress Racing — No. 31 Chevrolet
9. Michael Waltrip — Wood Brothers Racing — No. 21 Ford
10. Bill Elliott — Elliott-Marino Racing — No. 94 Ford
11. Kyle Petty — PE2 Motorsports — No. 44 Pontiac
12. Bobby Hamilton — Morgan-McClure Motorsports — No. 4 Chevrolet
13. Terry Labonte — Hendrick Motorsports — No. 5 Chevrolet
14. Ricky Craven — Hendrick Motorsports — No. 50 Chevrolet
15. Jimmy Spencer — Travis Carter Motorsports — No. 23 Ford
16. Jeff Gordon — Hendrick Motorsports — No. 24 Chevrolet
17. Lake Speed — Melling Racing — No. 9 Ford
18. John Andretti — Petty Enterprises — No. 43 Pontiac
19. Kenny Irwin, Jr. — Robert Yates Racing — No. 28 Ford
20. Ted Musgrave — Roush Racing — No. 16 Ford
21. Jerry Nadeau — Elliott-Marino Racing — No. 13 Ford
22. Sterling Marlin — SABCO Racing — No. 40 Chevrolet
23. Mike Wallace — Barkdoll Racing — No. 73 Chevrolet
24. Brett Bodine — Scandia-Bodine Racing — No. 11 Ford
25. Ward Burton — Bill Davis Racing — No. 22 Pontiac
26. Joe Nemechek — SABCO Racing — No. 42 Chevrolet
27. Dick Trickle — Donlavey Racing — No. 90 Ford
28. Steve Grissom — Larry Hedrick Motorsports — No. 41 Chevrolet
29. Andy Hillenburg — Sadler Brothers Racing — No. 95 Chevrolet
30. Rick Mast — Butch Mock Motorsports — No. 75 Ford
31. Geoff Bodine — Mattei Bodine Racing — No. 7 Ford
32. Robert Pressley — Jasper Motorsports — No. 77 Ford
33. Darrell Waltrip — Darrell Waltrip Motorsports — No. 17 Chevrolet
34. Dale Jarrett — Robert Yates Racing — No. 88 Ford
35. Billy Standridge — Standridge Auto Racing — No. 47 Ford
36. Dave Marcis — Marcis Auto Racing — No. 71 Chevrolet
37. Derrike Cope — Bahari Racing — No. 30 Pontiac
38. Mark Martin — Roush Racing — No. 6 Ford
39. Greg Sacks — Cale Yarborough Motorsports — No. 98 Ford
40. Jeff Burton — Roush Racing — No. 99 Ford
41. Steve Park — Dale Earnhardt, Inc. — No. 1 Chevrolet
42. Ricky Rudd — Rudd Performance Motorsports — No. 10 Ford
43. Kevin Lepage — LJ Racing — No. 91 Chevrolet

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This post was originally published on January 31, 2019.

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