One day late in matching his father’s own achievement 21 years earlier, Dale Earnhardt Jr. began etching his name in the history of the Cup Series on April 2, 2000 with his first career win.
The victory came at Texas Motor Speedway, the same track the third-generation driver earned his first Xfinity Series win at two years earlier.
Earnhardt led 106 of 334 laps and beat Jeff Burton to score the victory in just his 12th career start, four races sooner than his father’s first win in 1979. The victory also was the first for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the Cup Series.
“I’ll tell you what, that was the hardest race I’ve ever drove,” Earnhardt told CBS in Victory Lane. “Had the flu all day long, all week long, felt pretty good. Once the race started, we had a good race car and I was pretty happy.”
Earnhardt’s victory was the last time a Cup Series driver earned their first career win at Texas Motor Speedway.
Also on this date:
1967: Driving for the Wood Brothers, Cale Yarborough led 301 of 334 laps at Atlanta to earn his second Cup win and his first on a speedway.
1978: Darrell Waltrip beat John Utsman (relief driver for Benny Parsons) by one lap to earn his first of a record 12 career Cup wins at Bristol Motor Speedway.
1989: Harry Gant ended a 90-race winless streak with a dominant win at Darlington. He led 171 of the last 180 laps to beat Davey Allison and Geoff Bodine. The race was plagued by a 19-lap caution at one point in order to correct a scoring error that gave Gant a one-lap lead on the field.
1995: Jeff Gordon earns his first of four consecutive wins in the Food City 500 at Bristol. It was his third win in the first six races of the season, as Gordon would go on to claim his first Cup Series championship.
Smith, Allgaier, sixth-place finisher Daniel Hemric and seventh-place finisher Sam Mayer — the top four full-time Xfinity drivers — will be eligible for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus next week at Richmond Raceway.
Allmendinger won the first stage and then pitted. When a caution came out shortly, it put him 21st in the field. On the Lap 20 restart, his car suffered damage when he was hit going into Turn 1.
Allmendinger worked his way through the field and took the lead from Sheldon Creed on Lap 33 when they made contact and Creed spun. Creed fell back to 23rd and finished the 46-lap race in ninth.
Stage 1 winner: AJ Allmendinger
Stage 2 winner: Sheldon Creed
Who had a bad race: Austin Hill, who had won three of the first five races this season, had mechanical issues early and finished 37th in the 38-car field.
Next: The series races April 1 at Richmond Raceway (1 p.m. ET on FS1)
The key moment came when Parker Kligerman‘s truck came to a stop on the frontstretch at Lap 28. Smith, running second, made it to pit road before it was closed. Busch, who was leading, had already passed pit road entrance.
Smith gained the lead with the move, while Busch had to pit under the caution and restarted 16th. Smith was able to build a lead and beat Busch by 5.4 seconds.
Who had a good race: Ty Majeski’s third-place finish is his best of the season. … Tyler Ankrum’s fourth-place finish is his best of the year. … Corey Heim has finished sixth two races in a row. … Rookie Nick Sanchez finished seventh, giving him back-to-back top 10s.
Who had a bad race: Parker Kligerman was running third when electrical issues forced him to stop on track just after the end of the second stage. … After winning the first stage, Christian Eckes had mechanical issues and had to pit for repairs, costing him several laps.
Notable: Front Row Motorsports has won the Truck COTA race all three years. Todd Gilliland won the race in 2021 and Zane Smith has won it the past two years.
Next: The series races April 1 at Texas Motor Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET on FS1).
William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.
Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).
Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.
Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.
Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.
Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.