Work in Sports
Stuck at 9
Earnhardt has tried for years to break Pearson's record
By Ryan Smithson, CNNSI.com
Bristol and Darlington have been on the Winston Cup schedule for a long time -- Bristol since 1961, Darlington since 1950.
Not surprisingly, the longevity of these tracks has helped them cultivate some big winners.
Rusty Wallace scored his ninth career victory at Bristol on Saturday night. Wallace has raced full time in Winston Cup since 1984, and since then, he has scored 54 victories, including four this year. Wallace has won three of the last four races at the .533-mile Tennessee track -- his only win of 1999 came there.
But Wallace's nine wins do not lead the all-time list at Bristol. He does not even hold a solo second place in that category -- Dale Earnhardt has also won nine times at Bristol (but just once since 1994). Darrell Waltrip won seven races in a row at Bristol from 1981-84.
Waltrip has won 12 times at Bristol, but his record appears to be in jeopardy if Wallace keeps up his dominance of the high-banked half-mile track.
While Wallace chases Waltrip at Bristol, Earnhardt is chasing David Pearson at Darlington, site of this weekend's Southern 500.
Pearson won 105 Winston Cup races -- and 10 of them came in Pearson's home state of South Carolina at the track nicknamed "The Lady in Black."
Earnhardt has won nine times at Darlington -- but none of those victories have come since 1994, when The Intimidator won the last of his seven Winston Cup championships.
Earnhardt also went eight races without a top-three finish at Darlington from 1996-1999. He finished second in both races at the egg-shaped 1.3-mile oval in 1995, and broke a slump with a third-place finish in the spring even this year.
Pearson and Earnhardt's first win and last win at Darlington each spanned 12 years. Pearson first won at Darlington in 1968 and concluded his run with a win in 1980. Earnhardt won for the first time at Darlington in 1982 and won his last race there in 1994.
Like Bristol, Darlington places a premium on track position. Qualifying in the top 10 is deathly important -- of the 94 races run at Darlington, only nine drivers have managed to win from a starting spot outside the top-10. Only two have won from outside the top 15.
Earnhardt, who has not won a pole since 1996, has only started from the top spot at Darlington once. Pearson's run at Darlington was bolstered by a record 12 poles.