The 1990s were the era of the restrictor plate at Daytona International Speedway and one driver dominated restrictor plate racing at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway like no other – “The Intimidator,” Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt made magic at both tracks, but the Daytona 500 eluded Earnhardt for a number of years – 19, as a matter of fact. Here are the stories of Earnhardt and other top winners of the 1990s in the Daytona 500.
Dale Earnhardt – in 1998, Earnhardt finally captured the checkered flag in the Daytona 500, having already captured it in the July 400-mile race, the Daytona 500 qualifying races, the pre-season Shootout, the Nationwide Series race and the IROC Series. The win coincided with NASCAR’s 50th anniversary, and was so popular a victory that each team lined up on pit road to congratulate Earnhardt as he drove to victory lane. Sadly, the track he loved so much took his life three short years later.
Sterling Marlin – Marlin won two straight Daytona 500s in 1994 and 1995 for Morgan-McClure Motorsports, who had also won the 1991 race with Ernie Irvan behind the wheel. The 1994 win was the first of Marlin’s career, coming in his 279th start. The following year, he became one of only three drivers to win two consecutive Daytona 500s (Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough were the others).
Dale Jarrett – Jarrett’s first Daytona 500 win, in 1993 for Joe Gibbs Racing, was one of the most memorable calls in Daytona 500 history, as Jarrett’s father, former Cup Series champ Ned, was in the broadcast booth “calling him home.” Jarrett won two more Daytona 500s, in 1996 and again in 2000 as a member of Robert Yates Racing.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon is also a three-time winner of the 500, spanning the 1990s and 2000s. Gordon won his first Daytona 500 in 1997, following it up in 1999 and again in 2005. He gave Hendrick Motorsports its third, fourth and fifth wins in the “Great American Race;” Hendrick Motorsports has six total wins in the Daytona 500 as of the 2011 running.
Other winners – Derrike Cope (1990), Ernie Irvan (1991) and Davey Allison (1992).
Paula is a long-time NASCAR fan who also covers the sport for Examiner.com and Skirts & Scuffs.