Bad weekend for Earnhardt

Homestead is a race Dale Earnhardt will probably want to forget. 'The Intimidator' came into the penultimate NASCAR Winston Cup round second in the points and with a slim chance of taking the title. But after starting 37th and finishing a lowly 20th, not only did his title hopes go up in smoke, courtesy of Bobby Labonte, but Jeff Burton now sits in that second-place slot with just the Atlanta season finale to run.

Bad weekend for Earnhardt

Earnhardt didn't have the easiest of races. On lap 31 he tapped Ward Burton exiting turn two. Burton ended up in the garage, but Earnhardt managed to continue two laps down - only to get in the way of Ricky Rudd while Rudd was fighting for third. Earnhardt refused to let Rudd pass, running him up the banking and blocking his chase of the leaders.

"I don't know what Earnhardt was doing," said Rudd afterwards. "The car just ploughed and pushed after that and our race was over."

Earnhardt's closest rival Jeff Burton, while not having the best of weekends either, finished the race in 11th place after starting 31st. He was eight points behind Earnhardt before Homestead, but with his 130-point haul on Sunday (compared with Earnhardt's 103) Burton now has a 19-point lead going in to next weekend's season finale.

"Congratulations to Bobby (Labonte)," said Earnhardt. "They ran great all year long and we just couldn't ever come up with enough to do anything with them. I feel we could have raced a little better, but we didn't race worth a darn."

But despite Labonte wrapping up the title in Florida, the race in Atlanta should provide plenty of on-track excitement and fireworks. Burton has proved he's been one of the most consistent racers this year, but who is brave enough to write off Earnhardt when there is a race to be won and a point to be proved...?

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Homestead grid: Earnhardt’s mission impossible

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