Dale Earnhardt Jr. repeats at Talladega Superspeedway

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Dale Earnhardt Jr. held off teammate Michael Waltrip by .060 seconds to post back-to-back wins at Talladega Superspeedway in front of a record crowd last Sunday.

Earnhardt, in his No. 8 car, led a race-high 133 laps to post the first win of the season for a Chevrolet, as the manufacturer posted its seventh win at the infamous track.

&uot;We started out practice for qualifying and kind of struggled a little bit,&uot; Earnhardt said, following the 188-lap Aaron’s 499. &uot;What we ran wouldn’t have done us too well. We just weren’t as fast or as good as we had been in the past.&uot;

Bust as the race progressed, his car &045; and chances of winning &045; did, as well.

&uot;We effortlessly led all day long,&uot; Earnhardt said. &uot;We always seemed like we had somebody good, too, behind us. People like Michael (Waltrip).&uot;

&uot;We were pretty hard to beat,&uot; added Earnhardt.

Waltrip posted his fourth top-10 finish of the year and jumped from sixth to fourth in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Kurt Busch scored his second top-five finish in three races at Talladega by finishing third.

The race saw 26 lead changes among 10 drivers. There were three cautions for 19 laps, including one red flag while crews cleaned up oil on the track.

A tense moment in the race occurred when 24 cars were collected in a crash on the backstretch on lap 164. No drivers were injured.

Rounding out the top-10 were: Jeff Gordon in fourth; Sterling Marlin in fifth; Dale Jarrett in sixth; Jimmie Johnson in seventh; Rusty Wallace in eighth; Jeff Burton in ninth; and Kyle Petty in 10th.

Calera native Hut Stricklin had his best showing of the year finishing 11th.

Polesetter Johnson was the highest-finishing rookie.

&uot;It’s indescribable how much I learned from Daytona to here,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;We tore that race car up at Daytona pretty bad and they built one and brought it here with no testing and no wind tunnel time and sat on the pole and finished in the top-10.&uot;

Earnhardt’s win moved him from ninth to fifth in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings. It was his sixth career win in 84 races.

&uot;This track is definitely different and special,&uot; Earnhardt said. &uot;The weekends we come here and race are really special.&uot;

When asked if he would give the fans a little variety in winners when he returned to Talladega Oct. 6 for the EA Sports 500, Earnhardt laughed and said, &uot;variety wouldn’t do me any good.&uot;