Dale Jarrett in victory lane after his first Daytona 500 win. (ISC Archives via Getty Images)

Jarrett: Beating Earnhardt Not Once, But Twice In the 500

Legendary drivers are defined by more than their résumés. 

On paper, 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Dale Jarrett won three Daytona 500s during his illustrious 24-year NASCAR Cup Series career.

However, behind the title, ‘Daytona 500 winner’, was perhaps an even bigger noteworthy story – beating Dale Earnhardt not once, but twice to secure glory in the Great American Race.

Earnhardt’s track record at Daytona (Fla.) Int’l Speedway speaks for itself – 34 wins, the most by any driver. But there was heartache along the way as Earnhardt didn’t win the Daytona 500 until his 20th attempt in 1998.

Two of those heartbreaking moments came due to Jarrett.

In 1993, Jarrett won his first Daytona 500 aboard the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Chevrolet Lumina, in what turned into a chess match with Earnhardt.

With “The Intimidator” only having two fresh tires compared to Jarrett’s four, Earnhardt was a sitting duck during the closing laps of the race.

“I knew once I got to his bumper, going into turn three, as we were coming to get the white flag that I could get him loose enough that he just couldn’t turn his car down,” Jarrett told SPEED SPORT.

Sure enough, Jarrett got to the inside of Earnhardt as they crossed under the waving white flag. Jarrett went on to win the race, which was JGR’s first NASCAR event.

“Fortunately for me, and knowing that, I’d sat and watched him and I believe it was 1990 when Derek Cope won when Earnhardt had the flat tire going into turn three, coming to get the checkered flag. 

“He’d won every type of race there except the Daytona 500.” 

Fast-forward three years later, and it was the Jarrett and Earnhardt show again.

This time, however, Jarrett was at the helm of No. 88 Robert Yates Racing Ford. Furthermore, the roles were reversed as Jarrett had a mirror full of Earnhardt’s black No. 3 Chevrolet.

“I had to hold Earnhardt off for 23 laps, knowing that at that point in time, he still had not won the Daytona 500,” Jarrett said.

“And knowing that if he could get to my bumper, that I don’t think he was going to wreck me, but he was going to get me out of the way so that he could do that.”

While Earnhardt attempted to dart alongside Jarrett on the final lap, it wasn’t enough as Jarrett withstood the challenges to secure a second Harley J. Earl Trophy.

As Jarrett reflected on his fierce battle with one of NASCAR’s greatest racers, a sense of pride in his voice arose as he recalled the accomplishment. 

“That was a lot more stressful in that time and looking at it,” Jarrett said. 

“But to know that my first two Daytona 500 wins were beating Dale Earnhardt, arguably the best ever to race there.”