Rain ends chances for sweep
February 17, 2003 | By Ryan Clark, Tribune newspapers: Orlando Sentinel.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The story wasn’t supposed to end this way.
Someone forgot to write the perfect ending, about how Dale Earnhardt Jr. waited out two rain delays and capped the greatest seven days in Speedweek history by winning Sunday’s Daytona 500.
“We’ve seen this movie a thousand times,” Earnhardt said, his eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses . “You just always get let down.”
During the second–and, ultimately, final–rain delay Sunday, Earnhardt paced outside his trailer , waiting to find out whether the race would continue. He wasn’t agitated or
nervous–but he wasn’t happy.
“Our car was running so fast ,” said Earnhardt, trying to go 4-for-4 at Daytona this year.
“We could go up to the front all day long. If we could get back out there, we’d have a chance.”
After taking the lead on Lap 43, Earnhardt stayed in front until the first rain delay, on Lap 64. After the restart he raced in second place until Lap 89, when an alternator problem caused his battery to fail . After falling to seventh he was forced to pit, resulting in two lost
On Lap 106, Earnhardt gained back one of his lost laps, getting a push from teammate Michael Waltrip, who took the lead as a result.
Then the rain came, and the momentum stopped. As the rain fell harder, fans scampered for cover, and for another 65 minutes, the team waited to see if they would have a chance to make history. The answer came when Waltrip was shown celebrating on the jumbo screen on pit road.
Earnhardt crew member Bill Snyder turned away in disgust.
“You won because of Junior,” he said, pointing to the screen.