Editorial

The rivalry within the Chevy camp
by Stan Creekmore, NASCAR Editor

February 15, 2003

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The Chevy's of Harvick and Earnhardt Jr. battle on Thursday
Photo: CIA Stock Photo

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Four Chevrolets will lead the field to the green flag Sunday afternoon for the start of the Daytona 500. RCR Racing drivers Robbie Gordon and Jeff Green drive the two on the inside. DEI drivers Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Michael Waltrip drive the two on the outside.

It should make for a very interesting start to both the Daytona 500 and the 2003 Winston Cup season.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has been quite vocal with his opinion of all three RCR drivers – Kevin Harvick, Jeff Green and Robbie Gordon. It makes for one of the more interesting love/hate relationships in the Winston Cup garage.

The success of both teams is tightly knit on the engineering side of the business. Both owners, Richard Childress and Teresa Earnhardt, are quite protective of each other. However, don’t expect the drivers to get along.

Dale Jr. has suggested the drivers at RCR don’t understand the meaning of teamwork in a story in the Charlotte Observer. He suggests the independent nature of all three drivers works against the efforts of their veteran car owner.

Surprise! Surprise!

When Childress first announced the hiring of Robbie Gordon and Jeff Green, a resounding groan passed under the breath of the collective motorsports media. Green would have never had a shot driving at RCR as long as Dale Earnhardt was alive. Green was driven out of the DEI Busch Series ride, replaced by Steve Park, a better team player.

Gordon, apparently more mature now than just three years ago, still has a ways to go before he thinks of anyone beside himself, at least on the racetrack. He certainly wasn’t using his noodle when he injured his ankles in a motocross accident last year.


Dale Earnhardt Jr leads his teammate Michael Waltrip and Kevin Harvick in the 2nd 125-miler on Thursday
Photo: CIA Stock Photo

Criticism of Harvick might be slightly misdirected. Harvick stepped up the plate under the most horrible of circumstances and did an excellent job of filling the empty shoes of Dale Earnhardt. That he stumbled in his sophomore year is no reason to suggest he doesn’t have the best interests of his car owner in mind. The spotlight on Harvick was so intense it was inevitable the youthful driver would get burned. Once burned, Harvick lashed back like any wounded animal. He also learned his lesson and a bit of humility along the way.

Harvick is good for racing. He owns a truck team that is giving Ed Berrier a chance to drive again. He thinks past the steering wheel and the next morning. The same might not be said for his teammates.

It came as no surprise that Jeff Green lashed backed at Dale, Jr.’s comments. Green has a temper and in the mold of Jimmy Spencer a desire to extract his own level of revenge.

This brings us full circle. The first lap of the Daytona 500 is either going to be like a ballet as four drivers tip toe through the first four corners mindful of the year ahead of them. On the other hand, it may be the four tangle like hungry wolves taking along a good number of innocent victims with them in the process.

Guess we’ll know how it pans out come Sunday morning.

The author can be contacted stanc@autoracing1.com

Daytona 500 Past Winners

Year

Winner

Avg.

Pole Winner

Speed

1959

Lee Petty

135.520

Cotton Owens

143.198

1960

Junior Johnson

124.740

Fireball Roberts

151.556

1961

Marvin Panch

149.601

Fireball Roberts

155.709

1962

Fireball Roberts

152.529

Fireball Roberts

156.995

1963

Tiny Lund

151.566

Johnny Rutherford

165.183

1964

Richard Petty

154.345

Paul Goldsmith

174.910

1965 Shortened to 332+ miles by rain

Fred Lorenzen

141.539

Darel Dieringer

171.151

1966 Shortened to 495 miles by rain

Richard Petty

160.627

Richard Petty

175.165

1967

Mario Andretti

149.926

Curtis Turner

180.831

1968

Cale Yarborough

143.251

Cale Yarborough

189.222

1969

Lee Roy Yarbrough

157.950

David Pearson

190.029

1970

Pete Hamilton

149.601

Cale Yarborough

194.015

1971

Richard Petty

144.462

A.J. Foyt

182.744

1972

A.J. Foyt

161.550

Bobby Isaac

186.632

1973

Richard Petty

157.205

Buddy Baker

185.662

1974 Shortened to 450 miles because of energy crisis

Richard Petty

140.894

David Pearson

185.017

1975

Benny Parsons

153.649

Donnie Allison

185.827

1976

David Pearson

152.181

A.J. Foyt

185.943

1977

Cale Yarborough

153.218

Donnie Allison

188.048

1978

Bobby Allison

159.730

Cale Yarborough

187.536

1979

Richard Petty

143.977

Buddy Baker

196.049

1980

Buddy Baker

177.602

A.J. Foyt

195.020

1981

Richard Petty

169.651

Bobby Allison

194.624

1982

Bobby Allison

153.991

Benny Parsons

196.317

1983

Cale Yarborough

155.979

Ricky Rudd

198.864

1984

Cale Yarborough

150.994

Cale Yarborough

201.848

1985

Bill Elliott

172.265

Bill Elliott

205.114

1986

Geoff Bodine

148.124

Bill Elliott

205.039

1987

Bill Elliott

176.263

Bill Elliott

210.364†

1988

Bobby Allison

137.531

Ken Schrader

193.823

1989

Darrell Waltrip

148.466

Ken Schrader

196.996

1990

Derrike Cope

165.761

Ken Schrader

196.515

1991

Ernie Irvan

148.148

Davey Allison

195.955

1992

Davey Allison

160.256

Sterling Marlin

192.213

1993

Dale Jarrett

154.972

Kyle Petty

189.426

1994

Sterling Marlin

156.931

Loy Allen Jr.

190.158

1995

Sterling Marlin

141.710

Dale Jarrett

193.498

1996

Dale Jarrett

154.308

Dale Earnhardt

189.510

1997

Jeff Gordon

148.295

Mike Skinner

189.813

1998

Dale Earnhardt

172.712

Bobby Labonte

192.415

1999

Jeff Gordon

161.551

Jeff Gordon

195.067

2000

Dale Jarrett

155.669

Dale Jarrett

182.334

2001

Michael Waltrip

161.794

Bill Elliott

183.565

2002

Ward Burton

142.971

Jimmie Johnson

185.831

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Author

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