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1987:

Earnhardt Romps to No. 3

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By Ben White

Dale Earnhardt posted 11 wins and 24 top-10 finishes as he dominated the 1987 season en route to his third NASCAR Cup Series championship and his second straight behind the wheel of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

After a very successful 1986 season that included Earnhardt claiming his second NASCAR Cup Series crown, the aggressive, second-generation racer from Kannapolis, North Carolina, was poised to repeat his effort as the 1987 season dawned.

Earnhardt and team owner Richard Childress were building a union that most everyone envied. Both driver and team owner were very much alike. They had driven against each other in the Cup Series before Childress’ retirement in 1981 to make way for Earnhardt to drive his cars, and they came from similar personal backgrounds. Now, they were winning races and championships together and showing their closest competition how it was done.

Together, they were laying the groundwork for an incredible dynasty that would be strong well into the 1990s.

Earnhardt was successful on short tracks and superspeedways alike. He was on top of his game behind the wheel and he had a lightning-fast pit crew led by crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine. Their chemistry was magical, especially on the toughest tracks where Earnhardt shined brightest.

Bill Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Melling Racing Ford, proved to be Earnhardt’s closest rival but could not keep up with the championship pace of the RCR organization. Elliott’s six victories and 16 top-five finishes simply weren’t enough to mount a solid title challenge.

In the end, Earnhardt finished 489 points ahead of the popular driver from Dawsonville, Georgia.

HAMPTON, GA – NOVEMBER 22: Dale Earnhardt (center), car owner Richard Childress (left) and wife Teresa Earnhardt (right) celebrate clinching the 1987 Winston Cup Championship following the AC Delco 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway on Rockingham, N.C. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

1987

PRESIDENT: RONALD REAGAN

NO. 1 AT THE BOX OFFICE: BEVERLY HILLS COP II

MOVIES TO WATCH: FATAL ATTRACTION AND THREE MEN AND A BABY

NO. 1 SONG: “WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN” BY THE BANGLES

GALLON OF GAS: $1.87

POP CULTURE: THE FIRST “THE SIMPSONS” CARTOON SHORT WAS SHOWN ON THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW DURING APRIL.

BEST DRIVER

Dale Earnhardt, driving the No.3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, recorded 11 NASCAR Cup Series victories and 24 top-10 finishes. Earnhardt enjoyed a solid season from the opener at Daytona, finishing fifth. From there, he established himself as a winner and championship contender in all 29 events on the schedule. He held the point lead from the second race of the year at Rockingham Speedway and topped Bill Elliott in the final standings.

BEST RACE

Darrell Waltrip, driver of the No. 17 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, went from third to first in the final turn and scored an upset victory in the Sept. 27 race at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway. Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte and Waltrip were running 1-2-3 when they tangled entering Turn 3 on the final lap. Earnhardt and Labonte both crashed while Waltrip cruised to the checkered flag for his only win of the season.

TOP CARS

Dale Earnhardt’s No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet claimed 11 wins and had 24 top-10 results in 29 starts.

Driving the No. 9 Melling Racing Ford, Bill Elliott won six times and posted 20 top-10 finishes in 29 races.

1987 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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