Earnhardt has fond memories at Michigan
brooklyn, mich. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. was racing for the win in a 1999 IROC event at Michigan.
Problem was, his opponent was in no mood to let him pass.
“Dad drove to the bottom, so I just went around a little bit higher and it stuck, and I got along his outside,” the younger Earnhardt recalled. “I was going by, and he hit me.”
Dale Earnhardt won that race over Earnhardt Jr. by 0.007 seconds on one of many memorable days at Michigan International Speedway for Earnhardt Jr., whose farewell tour is passing through the track this weekend. Earnhardt Jr. would go on to win Cup races at MIS in 2008 and 2012, and he will try to add another victory Sunday in his final race at the venue before he retires at the end of this season.
Those wins in ’08 and ’12 were Earnhardt Jr.’s only Cup victories from 2007 to 2013. The latter snapped a 143-race losing streak. But his memories at Michigan extend further back than that.
The exciting IROC finish in ’99 included some contact between Earnhardt Jr.’s car and his father’s — a fun story line if there ever was one. Later that year, Junior pulled away from Jeff Gordon — who was at that point the two-time defending Cup champion — for a victory in a Busch Series race at Michigan.
“It seemed like only me and him were racing each other for the win,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I was very proud of that because I thought he was the best in the sport at the time.”
Earnhardt Jr. is winless over the past two seasons, and he has only four top-10 finishes this year. But he has been plenty competitive in Michigan over the years. In fact, only two active drivers — Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth — have more Cup wins at MIS.
“We’ve got some really good memories here,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “It’s been a fun track.”