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1990:

Popular hero becomes the true definition of determination

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Earnhardt and Martin Dominate

The 1990 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season began with hope that a longstanding mystery would finally be solved as one popular hero became the true definition of determination over the course of the 29-race schedule.

Having fallen short to Rusty Wallace for the 1989 NASCAR Cup Series title, Dale Earnhardt started the 1990 season at Daytona International Speedway on a mission. A Daytona 500 victory had eluded Earnhardt since 1978. The Kannapolis, North Carolina, native had come extremely close to winning  NASCAR’s most prestigious race but had fallen

just short of collecting the missing jewel year after year. Earnhardt and his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet were once again strong throughout Daytona’s Speedweeks. In the 500, a cut tire on the final lap sent him skating high in the third turn, leaving the door open for relative unknown Derrike Cope, of Spanaway, Washington, to come out of nowhere to steal the victory.

Earnhardt regained his footing and the point lead with his first victory of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He remained on top for nine events through Charlotte in May, but blew an engine at Dover the next week and fell to fifth in the standings over the next four races. A win at Daytona in July moved him back to second in points for 14 of the remaining 16 races. He regained the point lead at Phoenix with his ninth victory of the season.

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Roush Racing Ford, was Earnhardt’s closest nemesis throughout the year. Wins at Richmond, Michigan and North Wilkesboro were his biggest highlights. But an illegal engine part discovered by NASCAR officials at Richmond cost Martin 46 points and $40,000 in fines.

Earnhardt finished third in the final race of 1990 at Atlanta and won the NASCAR Cup Series championship by 24 points.

1990

PRESIDENT: GEORGE H.W. BUSH

NO. 1 SONG: “JEALOUS AGAIN,” THE BLACK CROWES

APRIL 28: THE BROADWAY PLAY “A CHORUS LINE” CLOSES AFTER 6,137 PERFORMANCES

OCT. 25: EVANDER HOLYFIELD DEFEATS BUSTER DOUGLAS FOR THE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE

BEST DRIVER

AMAZINGLY, DALE EARNHARDT failed to finish only one race, the June 3 event in Dover, Delaware. His average start of 5.8 and average finish of 8.0 proved enough to log his third of seven-career NASCAR Cup Series titles. Confident of his ability to win the 1990 crown, Earnhardt ran less than 15 practice laps in the season finale at Atlanta and covered his car, playing mind games while sending a message to Mark Martin’s team.

BEST RACE

ON THE FINAL LAP, EARNHARDT appeared certain to collect his elusive Daytona 500 victory after 12 straight losses. However, a cut tire in turn three erased his chances. The surprise victory by Derrike Cope, a driver who hadn’t finished in the top-five at any point in his career, generated headlines around the world. Interestingly, Cope’s second- career triumph came on June 3, 1990, the day Earnhardt suffered his lone DNF of the season.

TOP CARS

DALE EARNHARDT’S No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was the best car of 1990 with nine wins, 18 top-five finishes, 23 top-10 results and four pole positions. Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Roush Racing Ford, collected three wins, 16 top-five results, 23 top-10 finishes and three pole positions.

SEASON RECAP

DATE | LOCATION | WINNER

Feb. 15 | Daytona International Speedway | Bill Elliott

March 1 | Rockingham Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

March 8 | Richmond Raceway | Dale Earnhardt

March 15 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Ricky Rudd

March 29 | Darlington Raceway | Dale Earnhardt

April 5 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

Apr. 12 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

Apr. 26 | Martinsville Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

May 3 | Talladega Superspeedway | Davey Allison

May 24 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Kyle Petty

May 31 | Dover Motor Speedway | Davey Allison

June 14 | Pocono Raceway | Tim Richmond

June 21 | Riverside International Raceway | Tim Richmond

June 28 | Michigan International Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

July 4 | Daytona International Speedway | Bobby Allison

July 19 | Pocono Raceway | Dale Earnhardt

July 26 | Talladega Superspeedway | Bill Elliott

Aug. 10 | Watkins Glen International | Rusty Wallace

Aug. 16 | Michigan International Speedway | Bill Elliott

Aug. 22 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

Sept. 6 | Darlington Raceway | Dale Earnhardt

Sept. 13 | Richmond Raceway | Dale Earnhardt

Sept. 20 | Dover Motor Speedway | Ricky Rudd

Sept. 27 | Martinsville Speedway | Darrell Waltrip

Oct. 4 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Terry Labonte

Oct. 11 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Bill Elliott

Oct. 25 | Rockingham Speedway | Bill Elliott

Nov. 8 | Riverside International Raceway | Rusty Wallace

Nov. 22 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Bill Elliott

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