Dale Earnhardt : biography
The 1986 season saw Earnhardt win his second career Winston Cup Championship and the first owner’s championship for RCR. He won five races and had ten Top 5 and sixteen Top 10 finishes. Earnhardt successfully defended his championship the following year, visiting victory lane eleven times and winning the championship by 489 points over Bill Elliott. In the process, Earnhardt set a NASCAR modern era record of four consecutive wins and won five of the first seven races. In the 1987 season, Earnhardt earned his nickname "The Intimidator" after spinning out Elliott in the final segment of "The Winston", a non-points event now known as the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. During this race, Earnhardt was briefly forced into the infield grass, but kept control of his car and returned to the track without giving up his lead. The maneuver is now referred to as the "Pass in the Grass," even though Earnhardt did not pass anyone while he was off the track.
The 1988 season saw Earnhardt racing with a new sponsor, GM Goodwrench, which replaced Wrangler Jeans. During this season Earnhardt garnered a second nickname, "The Man in Black", owing to the black paint scheme in which the No. 3 car was painted. He was also called "Darth Vader" more than once because of the black uniform and car, adding to his notoriety as a driver who would wreck any car he could not pass. He won three times in 1988, finishing third in the points standings behind Bill Elliott and Rusty Wallace. The following year, Earnhardt won five times, but a late spin out at North Wilkesboro arguably cost him the 1989 championship, as Rusty Wallace edged out Earnhardt for the championship.
The 1990 season started for Earnhardt with victories in the Busch Clash and his heat of the Gatorade Twin 125s. Near the end of the Daytona 500, he had a four-second lead when the final caution flag came out with a handful of laps to go. When the green flag waved, Earnhardt was leading Derrike Cope. On the final lap, Earnhardt ran over a piece of metal in the final turn, cutting a tire. Cope, in an upset, won the race while Earnhardt finished fifth. The No. 3 Goodwrench Chevy team took the flat tire that cost them the win and hung it on the shop wall as a reminder of how close they’d come to winning the Daytona 500. Earnhardt went on to win nine races this season and won his fourth Winston Cup title, beating Mark Martin by 26 points. Earnhardt also became the first repeat winner of the annual all-star race, The Winston.
The 1991 season saw Earnhardt win his fifth Winston Cup championship. He scored just four wins, but won the championship by 195 points over Ricky Rudd. One of his wins that year came at North Wilkesboro, in a race where Harry Gant had a chance to set a single-season record by winning his fifth consecutive race, breaking a record held by Earnhardt. Late in the race Gant lost his brakes, which gave Earnhardt the chance he needed to make the pass for the win and maintain his record.
Earnhardt’s only win of the 1992 season came at Charlotte, in the Coca-Cola 600, ending a 13-race win streak by Ford teams. Earnhardt finished a career-low 12th in the points for the second time in his career, and the only time he had finished that low since joining RCR. Earnhardt still made the trip to the annual Awards Banquet with Rusty Wallace but did not have the best seat in the house. Wallace stated he and Earnhardt had to sit on the backs of their chairs to see and Earnhardt said "This sucks, I could have gone hunting". At the end of the year, longtime crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine left to become a driver. Andy Petree took over as crew chief.
Hiring Petree turned out to be beneficial, as the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevy returned to the front in 1993. Earnhardt once again came close to a win at the Daytona 500, and dominated Speedweeks before finishing second to Dale Jarrett on a last-lap pass. Earnhardt scored six wins en route to his sixth Winston Cup title, including wins in the Coca-Cola 600 and The Winston at Charlotte, and the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. Earnhardt beat Rusty Wallace for the championship by 80 points.