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AMS Flashback: Earnhardt's Rally For 1995 Title Falls Short

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Near the end of the 1995 season, the odds didn't look good for Dale Earnhardt Sr. to win his third title in a row, trailing Jeff Gordon by more than 300 points with 10 races left in the season. But he nearly completed a furious rally, coming up just short in the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the Napa 500.

Earnhardt headed to Atlanta trailing Gordon by 147 points, meaning he'd need a very good day and Gordon to have some things go wrong in order to win the championship.

It nearly ended up happening. After qualifying eighth, Gordon's car was not much of a factor, finishing 32nd. Earnhardt, on the other hand, did all he could to come away with the championship. The black No. 3 Chevy dominated, leading 268 of 328 laps and collected the most possible points by leading the most laps and collecting one of his nine Atlanta victories.

Gordon however, was able to hang on, winning his first of four championships and giving Rick Hendrick his first Cup championship.

"This is just a spectacular day. I know our racecar wasn't much today, but it's been a heck of a year," Gordon said after the race. "It's just the greatest thing in the world. There aren't words that can describe the way I feel."

Earnhardt started his post-race interview following the race by congratulating the Atlanta Braves on their recent World Series title in addition to Hendrick.

"He's due a championship, he's been doing this a long time," Earnhardt said. "I tested for him when he first started building cars. I've got to sort of feel good for him."

Earnhardt, who started 11th, won a race that had just two caution flags and saw 36 drivers running at the finish. Sterling Marlin finished second ahead of Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliott and Ward Burton. Darrell Waltrip started on the pole in his self-owned No. 17 Western Auto entry and finished 16th. It ended up being Waltrip's final pole position of his career at the track where he would compete in his final Cup race in November of 2000.

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