Throwback Thursday: Dale Earnhardt Picks Up Lone Road Course Win at Sears Point

Kyle Magda Featured, West 0 Comments

SONOMA, Calif. — Story by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Getty Images photo —

The Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 Brickyard 400 Southern 5oo: four big races that seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt won in his illustrious  27-year career.

But one event that was missing on Earnhardt’s convincing resume; a victory on a road course. He came up short several times, including twice in 1993 while leading late  at both Sears Point and Watkins Glen. Earnhardt got caught up in an incident with the lapped car of Tommy Kendall at Sonoma, before being taken out by Kyle Petty later that August at the Glen.

Geoffrey Bodine’s win in the 1993 Save Mart Supermarkets 300 started a streak of four straight road-course wins for Ford and looked like the manufacturer’s dominance could continue in May 1995 when the NASCAR Winston Cup Series returned to the 2.52-mile Sears Point Raceway.

Tw0-time Sears Point winner Ricky Rudd won the pole for the race, but his time up front was short-lived as Mark Martin stormed by the No. 10 Tide Ford on lap 5. The last time Martin showed up to a road course, he was celebrating in victory lane in August 1994 at Watkins Glen.

The No. 6 Valvoline Ford proved to be the car to beat that day, as Martin never won on the Northern California road course. Fellow Ford driver Rusty Wallace tried to short-pit lap 23, but didn’t get the lead from Martin. Wallace didn’t lead a single lap and ended the afternoon in 20th place.

Even though Martin led the most laps on the day with 66 laps, Dale Earnhardt ran right in his tire tracks over the final 30 laps. A young 23-year-old Jeff Gordon was within striking distance as well and finished a career-best third on a road course last year at Sonoma.

Earnhardt applied pressure to the No. 6 car’s rear bumper and just waited for Martin to make a mistake. Martin ran on the track’s rumble strips a few times, but wasn’t enough for the 1998 Daytona 500 winner to get by.

There weren’t many passing opportunities on the 11 turn, 2.52-mile layout that the NASCAR Cup Series used to run. A driver could pull a move inside of a car coming out of Turn 4, but had to keep up the car’s speed to complete the pass before coming up to the carousel in Turn 6.

A car could peek inside of another car in Turn 7, but much like Turn 4, the driver had to keep the momentum up to make the pass for position. Out of the all the passing areas, there is no better chance than in Turn 11. The 90-degree turn onto the front-straightaway is the best place to pass, as a driver can out-brake another going into the turn.

Earnhardt found the one most unlikely place where Martin could slip up: the carousel. Martin went into Turn 6 too hot and opened up the inside lane for Earnhardt.

The seven-time Cup champ cleared Martin coming out of the corner and never looked back to score his first-career Cup Series road course win. The slip by Martin cost him his first win at Sears Point, but would pick up his lone win at the track in May 1997 and the last race that NASCAR used the 2.52-mile layout there. Gordon finished runner-up in 1996 and 1997 at Sears Point before finally winning there in 1998 and the first race on the 1.99-mile course.

Like Earnhardt did until 1995, 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick has yet to win a race at Sonoma, but has a road-course victory in August 2006 at Watkins Glen. There have been 10 different winners in the 10 last Cup races at the track located in California’s wine country, dating back to 2005 with Tony Stewart.

Will there be another different winner in victory lane Sunday, or do we see a familiar face winning once again at Sonoma? Tune in Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 to find out.

RESULTS: NASCAR Winston Cup  Series; Save Mart Supermarkets 300; Sears Point Raceway; May 7, 1995

1. Dale Earnhardt

2. Mark Martin

3. Jeff Gordon

4. Ricky Rudd

5. Terry Labonte

6. Ted Musgrave

7. Sterling Marlin

8. Todd Bodine

9. Ken Schrader

10. Michael Waltrip

11. John Andretti

12. Derrike Cope

13. Bobby Labonte

14. Bobby Hamilton

15. Morgan Shepherd

16. Rick Mast

17. Jimmy Spencer

18. Jeff Burton

19. Bill Elliott

20. Rusty Wallace

21. Ward Burton

22. Geoffrey Bodine

23. Dale Jarrett

24. Dick Trickle

25. Ricky Craven

26. Steve Grissom

27. Dave Marcis

28. Kyle Petty

29. Brett Bodine

30. Robert Pressley

31. Doug George

32. Randy LaJoie

33. Hut Stricklin

34. Mike Wallace

35. Darrell Waltrip

36. Davy Jones

37. Joe Nemechek

38. Terry Fisher

39. Wally Dallenbach Jr.

40. Lake Speed

41. Ken Pedersen

42. Butch Gilliland

43. Dan Obrist

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