ale Earnhardt will forever be linked
with Daytona International Speedway.
The spiritual home of stock car racing
regularly robbed the sport’s biggest star
of the 1980s and ’90s in its showpiece
event, the Daytona 500, by various twists
of fate until he finally broke through to
victory at his 20th attempt in 1998.
Then, of course, came the catastrophic
last lap of the 2001 “500” that claimed
his life. That tragedy overshadowed the
new chapter involving Earnhardt, his
signature No. 3 and Chevrolet that had
opened at the beginning of Daytona’s
Speedweeks just a couple weeks before.
The ultimate oval racer, Earnhardt had
proved his road racing credentials as well
in both NASCAR and IROC events. But for
2001, he put his left-and-right skills to
their biggest challenge yet by joining
Corvette Racing’s factory Corvette team
for the Rolex 24. In company with his son
Dale Jr., then just beginning his own
ascent to stardom, Earnhardt would drive
– what else – a No. 3 C5-R. Although his
fame naturally brought lots of attention,
team manager Doug Fehan recalls being
1 Dale Earnhardt
finally earned an
500 victory in 1998.
2 He carried the
No. 3 proudly and
his debut with
Rolex 24 in 2001...
3 ...and was among
the first on hand
in Victory Lane
swept to an overall
triumph in the
race with the sister
No. 2 C5-R.
struck by the degree of humility
Earnhardt displayed, eagerly soaking up
all the advice he could from veteran road
racers on the team like Ron Fellows
and Andy Pilgrim.
That approach paid off in the race,
where both Earnhardts ran strongly,
despite long stints run in inclement
weather. In what proved a historic day for
the Corvette squad, Earnhardt and son
brought the No. 3 home fourth overall and
second in class, while the sister C5-R,
driven by Fellows, Johnny O’Connell,
Franck Freon and Chris Kneifel, scored an
epic overall victory for the GTS-class
machine. An exuberant Earnhardt Sr., who
took special pride in his competitive lap
times in the rain, was eager for further
outings in the car. Sadly, fate intervened
to foreclose prospects for this new
addition to the Earnhardt story.
For 2014, a new chapter begins as the
No. 3 returns to the Daytona 500 for the
first time since ’01, with rookie Austin
Dillon assuming Earnhardt’s old Richard
Childress Racing Chevrolet. And Corvette
Racing is back for more 24-hour glory, too.
WHAT Legendary connections between Corvette, No. 3 and Daytona
WHERE Daytona International Speedway
2014 CHEVROLET RACING SPECIAL