The 1998 season marked NASCAR's 50th anniversary, and the 40th running of the Daytona 500. Adding another layer of significance to the occasion, popular NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt registered a dominating win -- after 20 attempts -- in this crown jewel race of the NASCAR Winston Cup season.
Jeff Gordon, however, would take the season's ultimate title for the second year in a row. Experience the excitement again with our 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup chronology, which features several pictures of 1998 racing events.
February 15, 1998: Daytona 500
With the Thunderbird no longer available, Ford introduces the Taurus for competition in NASCAR's 50th Anniversary season. Dale Earnhardt ends two decades of frustration at the Daytona 500. Earnhardt, making his 20th start in NASCAR's annual "Super Bowl," leads the final 61 laps and edges Bobby Labonte at the finish. It is the 71st win of Earnhardt's career and it snaps a victory drought that dates back to 1996.
March 1, 1998
Mark Martin drives his Ford Taurus to victory in the inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Martin finishes 1.6 seconds ahead of teammate Jeff Burton as the Jack Roush team posts a 1-2 showing.
April 5, 1998: Texas 500
Mark Martin passes Chad Little with 30 laps remaining and motors to a close victory in the Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Little and third-place finisher Robert Pressley enjoy the best finishes of their careers. A 13-car crash on the opening lap takes out many of the top contenders.
Dale Earnhardt leads a pack of cars as they approach the white flag of the Feb. 15 Daytona 500. The final lap was run under caution due to an accident involving John Andretti and Lake Speed. Earnhardt finally prevailed in NASCAR's crown-jewel event after 20 years of trying. He also halted a career-long 59-race winless streak that stretched back to 1996. See more pictures of NASCAR.
April 20, 1998: Goody's 500
Bobby Hamilton's dominating performance nets an overwhelming victory in the Goody's 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Hamilton finishes 6.3 seconds ahead of runner-up Ted Musgrave to score his third career NASCAR Winston Cup victory.
May 24, 1998: Coca-Cola 600
Jeff Gordon runs down Rusty Wallace with 10 laps to go and hustles to victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With his late-race pass, Gordon denies Wallace a shot at the Winston No Bull 5 $1 million bonus. Gordon also takes the points lead for the first time in the 1998 campaign.
Jeff Gordon swept both road-course events on the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup slate -- Sears Point in June and Watkins Glen in August. In the Aug. 9 The Bud At The Glen, Gordon overcame a slow pit stop, rallied from an 11-second deficit, and raced past leader Mike Skinner with four laps left. The victory gave Gordon an 82-point lead in the championship chase and put him in position to capture his third title in four years.
June 6, 1998: Pontiac 400
Terry Labonte bumps his way past Dale Jarrett with three laps remaining and notches his first win of the season in the Pontiac 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Jeff Gordon's victory bid is derailed when Rusty Wallace knocks him into the wall with 28 laps remaining.
June 21, 1998: Pocono 500
Jeremy Mayfield holds off Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett in a stirring finish to bag his first career NASCAR Winston Cup win in the Pocono 500. Mayfield leads 122 of the 200 laps on the triangular 2.5-mile speedway and the win comes in his 125th career start.
July 4, 1998
Raging forest fires in the state of Florida force Daytona International Speedway officials to postpone the Pepsi 400 until October. Wildfires burn more than 300,000 acres in the Sunshine State. It is the first time the holiday NASCAR classic is postponed since the track was built in 1959.
Jeff Gordon continued his hot streak in the Sept. 6 Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, scoring his seventh win in the last nine races. Gordon bagged another Winston No Bull 5 $1 million bonus with his late victory gallop, and the triumph gave him a comfortable 199-point lead in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings.
August 16, 1998: Pepsi 400
Title-bound Jeff Gordon racks up his fourth consecutive victory in the Pepsi 400 at Michigan Speedway, rallying from a two-mile deficit in the final 22 laps. A timely caution flag bunches up the field and Gordon takes the lead with nine laps remaining.
September 6, 1998: Pepsi Southern 500
Jeff Gordon bags his sixth victory in the last seven races and wins another Winston No Bull 5 $1 million bonus with a win in the Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington. Gordon pads his lead in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings to 199 points over Mark Martin.
Dale Earnhardt rides under the checkered flag to win the Feb. 12 Gatorade Twin 125-mile qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway. The narrow victory over the new Ford Tauruses of Dale Jarrett and Jeremy Mayfield was the ninth win in a row for Earnhardt in the preliminary sprint races. Ford brought the Taurus to NASCAR for the first time in 1998, making it the first four-door car to be approved for NASCAR's top series.
September 27, 1998: NAPA Autocare 500
Ricky Rudd overcomes 100-degree heat to win the NAPA Autocare 500 at Martinsville, giving him a victory in 16 consecutive NASCAR Winston Cup seasons. Rudd's feat leaves him two years shy of NASCAR's all-time record of 18 set
by Richard Petty.
October 17, 1998: Pepsi 400
Jeff Gordon passes Kenny Irwin, Jr., with 38 laps remaining and hustles to victory in the rescheduled Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. For the first time, a race is staged under the lights at Daytona. Gordon wins for the 11th time in the 1998 season and is virtually assured of winning his third championship.
Jeff Gordon rides the high side around #21 Michael Waltrip in the Feb. 22 GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400 at North Carolina Speedway. After Gordon fell to 31st in the first 100 miles, crew chief Ray Evernham adjusted the car on each pit stop. Near the end of the race, Gordon's #24 Chevrolet was untouchable. It was the 30th career NASCAR Winston Cup win for Gordon and his second straight at Rockingham.
November 8, 1998
After nearly a seven-hour rain delay, Jeff Gordon wins the finale at Atlanta for his 13th win of the season. Gordon finishes 364 points ahead of runner-up Mark Martin in the final NASCAR Winston Cup standings.
Continue to the next page for a look at this golden anniversary NASCAR season's final standings.