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1st NASCAR Busch Win!
Texas Motor Speedway - April 4, 1998
Dale Jr. and the ACDelco Team win the Coca Cola 300!
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FORT WORTH, Texas - Dale Earnhardt choked up again Saturday. The stone-faced Intimidator, who became emotional in February when he finally won the Daytona 500, turned softy again, this time when son Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Busch Grand National Coca-Cola 300 for his first NASCAR victory.

"Daddy, I love you to death," excited Dale Jr. said on the two-way radio shortly after taking the checkered flag at the Texas Motor Speedway.

Dale Jr.'s victory was a family classic. He gave up the lead to make a pit stop with 15 laps left to take four new tires, returned in third place, then nuzzled up behind leader Joe Nemechek and scared him out of the way with one lap to go.

"It was awesome," said the proud father and car owner. "I can't believe it."

The victory was worth $66,075, but the significance was priceless. It made the Earnhardt family a three-generation winner on the circuit and it proved that 23-year-old Dale Jr. can carry on the tradition begun by grandfather Ralph Earnhardt and continued by his father.
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"I'm proud of my father and grandfather and what they've done," Dale Jr. said. "I'm just glad that I'm able to be successful at it, too."

Dale Jr. started 16th, was still 12th with 60 laps to go, then had crept up to second with 20 laps left. He moved into first on the 181st lap and stayed there for four laps until the sixth caution flag of the race came out. That's when Dale Sr. stepped in and decided to give up the lead and get some new wheels.

Dale Jr. didn't question the move. "I knew getting four tires could give us a chance to win," he said. Dale Jr. left the pit in third with 11 laps to go. He moved into second behind Joe Nemechek on the next lap when Nemechek bumped leader Glenn Allen, spinning Allen off the track and bringing out the seventh and final caution flag.

The green flag returned with five laps left in the 200-lap race. On lap No. 199, Dale Jr. jammed the nose of the No. 3 Chevrolet his father has made famous just inches behind Nemechek's tail, essentially daring Nemechek to make a move. He did. He blinked. Nemechek drifted up, allowing Earnhardt to slide under and past him to the checkered flag.

"We'd been passing cars like that all day long," Earnhardt said. "He was just the last one in line." Nemechek was so bewildered that he ended up drifting to third, behind pole-sitter Elliott Sadler. Phil Parsons was fourth, Jeff Korgh fifth and defending Busch champion Randy LaJoie, who started last, finished sixth.

The second-place finish moved Sadler to second in the series standings. Incoming series leader Mike McLaughlin finished 11th and fell to third in the points race. In a sweet coincidence, Dale Jr.'s first win came in his 16th Busch race, just like his dad's first Winston Cup victory came in his 16th start.


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