The Daytona 500 is two weeks away, and we’re counting down the days until the NASCAR season begins at Daytona International Speedway with memorable moments at the most prestigious race in the sport.
The first memorable moment we are revisiting is Dale Earnhardt’s first career win at Daytona. Earnhardt is easily one of the best drivers in NASCAR history, but that first win at the Daytona 500 eluded him for many years.
By the time the 1998 Daytona 500 rolled around, Earnhardt had already won seven Cup Series championships. He had accomplished just about everything a NASCAR driver could dream of by then, but he had never won a Daytona 500. He had finished second on four different occasions, and he had eight top-5s at the race.
There had been so much heartbreak for him at the track, and at that point in his career, winning the Daytona 500 was the only major event he hadn’t accomplished.
Earnhardt had 70 wins entering that race, and he had seen so many opportunities slip away. But he didn’t let that happen in 1998.
As far as restrictor plate races are concerned, it was a relatively smooth race. There were no major accidents and only three caution flags, and it resulted in the second-fastest Daytona 500 at the time.
Earnhardt led the race for 107 laps, and he dominated the race. Bobby Labonte finished second and only led for 22 laps.
After Earnhardt won the race, every member of every crew came out and congratulated Earnhardt. It was a historic moment for Earnhardt’s career, and it was a historic moment in NASCAR history.