Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fond track memories for Junior

Dale Earnhardt Jr. signs autographs before practice for his final race at Michigan International Speedway.

Associated Press

Dale Earnhardt Jr. signs autographs before practice for his final race at Michigan International Speedway.

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 his son 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'll try to add another victory today 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 2007-13. 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 . Later that year, Junior pulled away from Jeff Gordon — who was at that point the two-time defending Cup champion — for a win in a Busch Series race at Michigan.

"It seemed like only me and him were racing each other for the win. I was very proud of that because I thought he was the best in the sport at the time," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It was like beating Jimmie Johnson if he came down to the Xfinity Series. So, that was a big deal for us."

By 2012, Earnhardt Jr. was no longer an up-and-comer in his mid 20s. His victory at the 2-mile Michigan track that year ended his long drought. He'd go on to win four more Cup races in 2014 and three in 2015.

Earnhardt Jr. is winless over the past two seasons, and he has only four top-10 finishes this year. Over the past week, he has been involved in a bit of a back-and-forth with Kevin Harvick, who suggested Junior's inability to achieve more success has hindered the sport's growth.

But Earnhardt Jr. 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. It's been a fun track," Earnhardt Jr. said.

TRUCKS: Darrell Wallace Jr. made the most of his first NASCAR Truck Series race in three years, holding off a late challenge from Christopher Bell to win the Michigan 200 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

XFINITY: Sam Hornish Jr. dominated in his home state to win the Mid-Ohio Challenge in Lexington. Hornish, from Defiance, took the lead from rookie Daniel Hemric on lap 62 of 75 and beat him by 1.335 seconds.

Fond track memories for Junior 08/12/17 [Last modified: Saturday, August 12, 2017 8:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Jake Odorizzi admitted he probably should have gone on the DL sooner than late July for the back stiffness that was keeping him from throwing the ball where he wanted to. He has since found an impressive groove, with another strong outing Saturday.

  2. Matt Baker's takeaways from Florida State-N.C. State

    College

    RB Cam Akers still looks like a former high school quarterback at times. His first two touches (30 yards) were special, but the freshman juked instead of powering ahead on his third (an unsuccessful third-and-1 rush). That's why the Seminoles are easing him in, as they did with Dalvin Cook three years ago.

    Running back Cam Akers carries for a first down during the third quarter as FSU eases the freshman into the college game.
  3. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.
  4. Lightning confused by NHL's slashing crackdown

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — D Victor Hedman said the joke in the Lightning locker room before Friday's exhibition game was that the over/under on slashing penalties would be six.

    "It was the over again," Hedman quipped.

    Wing Ryan Callahan, left,  pursues the Predators’ Colton Sissons, being careful how he uses his stick given the crackdown on slashing in the preseason. “It’s hard to defend when you’re so used to doing something for so long and now it’s a penalty,” Callahan says.
  5. Trump fallout: Bucs' DeSean Jackson to make 'statement' Sunday

    Bucs

    Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes a catch during the first half of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.