NASCAR Needs the Rock

 by Frank Ryan
February 23, 2001

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Dale Earnhardt is gone, but will never be forgotten.
(photo by Doug Belliveau)

Now more than ever, NASCAR needs the Rock, and with the Winston Cup warriors returning back to action only one day after putting Dale Earnhardt to rest, is it just a coincidence that the next event would be held at Rockingham. 

"And the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock". Matthew 7:25

Never before has such a storm rocked NASCAR, and as we search for the answers, we only need to look as far as the Rock for comfort, knowing that Dale has found comfort in the presence of the Lord. 

In its 36th year of operation, the 1.017-mile North Carolina Speedway is the second stop on the Winston Cup tour and host to the DURA-LUBE 400. As the first race since the death of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona, a number of items are still being worked out at the Richard Childress Racing (RCR) and Dale Earnhardt Incorporated (DEI) camps.

Richard Childress Racing will announce Friday that Kevin Harvick, who drove in the Busch Grand National series for RCR, will take over Earnhardt's ride for the rest of the season. Harvick, last years BGN Rookie of the Year, will drive Earnhardt's Monte Carlo and have the full compliment of the team in support of his efforts. Harvick is expected to sport the #30 with a predominately white and silver paint scheme. 

Click for Rockingham, North Carolina Forecast Qualifying is set for Friday, where 43 cars are expected to take to the racetrack for a single round of qualifying. Two consecutive qualifying laps will occur in a single round, determining the starting positions. The faster of the two laps will determine time of record.

There have been 71 NASCAR Winston Cup races at Rockingham since the track hosted its first NASCAR Winston Cup (Grand National) race, the 1965 American 500, won by Curtis Turner. There was one race in 1965 and two per year thereafter. All of the past Rockingham races were 500-mile events until the format was switched to 400 miles beginning in the fall of 1995.

Mark Martin and Kyle Petty lead all active drivers each with five Bud Poles at Rockingham.

In the 35 years of twice-a-year NASCAR Winston Cup racing at Rockingham, eight times a driver has swept both races at Rockingham. Most recently, Rusty Wallace accomplished the feat in 1993 and Jeff Gordon repeated the task in 1998.

Rusty Wallace leads all active drivers with five victories at Rockingham, including back-to-back wins in the fall of 1988 and the spring of 1989 and three consecutive races: a sweep in 1993 and the 1994 GM Goodwrench 500.

The author can be contacted at frankr@autoracing1.com

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