With the 2019 season serving as the 50th anniversary of Richard Childress Racing, we plan to dip into the archives to present the stories of iconic moments, race wins, championships and much more as part of our weekly Throwback Thursday series.
Richard Childress Racing has four NASCAR Cup Series victories at Dover International Speedway, with Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Burton delivering victories for the organization at the ‘Monster Mile.’ Two of those victories came in dominant fashion in 1989, when Earnhardt and the black No. 3 Chevrolet was able to sweep the season’s races at the one-mile, high-banked oval.
Heading into the June 4 race at Dover, Earnhardt and the No. 3 RCR team were coming off a disappointing 38th finish with a motor failure at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the annual Coca-Cola 600. When the green flag flew for the 500-miler at Dover, Earnhardt was on the front row, took the lead on Lap 2 and refused to give it up.
The RCR No. 3 Chevrolet was out front eight times for 456 of the 500 laps, dominating the field and beating Mark Martin to take the checkered flag. The victory was Earnhardt’s second at Dover and second of the 1989 season.
“I just knew it was going to be a good day. I don’t know why, but the car felt good and when the race started everything just clicked,” said Earnhardt.
Standing in Victory Lane, Earnhardt told ESPN’s Dr. Jerry Punch he simply took care of the No. 3 Chevrolet throughout the day when others were abusing their equipment, and that made the difference in the end.
“I could run hard if I wanted to, but it was just real comfortable for me in the car,” he said. “I would just like to thank Goodwrench, Richard Childress and all of the guys. They did a super job … We just had a good day.”
When the season returned to the ‘Monster Mile’ in September, Earnhardt was two weeks removed from his win in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and in a heated battle with Rusty Wallace for the championship points lead.
For this event, Earnhardt started deeper in the field – 15th – and had to work his way through the field as Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison and Dick Trickle fought for the lead. However, when Earnhardt took the lead for the first time on Lap 63, he was once again in control of the event.
The day wasn’t as easy as his June romp of the field, however. The RCR team gambled on fuel by taking only one can of fuel and hoping tire wear would play in their favor.
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Over the final 135 laps, Earnhardt and Martin battled for the top spot. As the checkered flag neared, Earnhardt had to hold off a hard-charging Mark Martin in the Jack Roush-owned No. 6. While Martin wore out his tires on the asphalt surface trying to get to the back bumper of the No. 3 Chevrolet, Earnhardt did his best to hold onto the lead.
With both cars smoking the right rear tires, Earnhardt was able to survive the charge, earn his second Dover win of the season and fourth victory of 1989.
“It was just a great race,” a happy and winning car owner Richard Childress told ESPN.
“First of all, we have to congratulate Mark Martin. He really made Dale earn it out there and Dale did a great job for us,” said Childress.
“We knew that that’s what we had to do was to make up the time in the pits and try to make it up with four fresh tires,” he said of the team’s strategy play earlier in the day. “We told Dale to go as hard as he could, and he did. That’s how we made up our time.”
Earnhardt knew he had to work a bit more for this win than the dominant performance he displayed in June, but the driver of the No. 3 RCR Chevrolet was proud of the team’s effort to sweep the Dover race weekends.
“These guys did a good job with this car. This GM Goodwrench Chevrolet ran real good. We weren’t quite as dominant as we were in the spring, but we were pretty tough,” Earnhardt said in Victory Lane.
“Mark ran me real hard there at the end. I was really worried about him. He would make a run at me one or two times and I just tried to run a good, tight line but I was trying to run as hard as I could too. He ran me real hard.”