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Book Review: “Dale vs Daytona: The Intimidator’s Quest to Win the Great American Race”

by Paul Gohde

Legend had it that Dale Earnhardt could “feel the air” when a race required knowing how to draft for a win during NASCAR Winston Cup races. But a victory in the iconic Daytona 500 (a track that required great drafting expertise) eluded him for most of his 23-seasons of Cup competition despite having won 30 other events on the 2.5-mile high-banked speedway.

Veteran NASCAR writer Rick Houston chronicles the “Intimidator’s” search for that elusive win from Earnhardt’s rookie 500 in 1979 to the tragic 2001 race that claimed his life on the final lap.

The author has an insider’s view of Earnhardt’s quest, having covered NASCAR events while writing for NASCAR Winston Cup Scene for many years.

Houston takes the reader into the shops and garages of NASCAR, recording Dale Senior’s roller-coaster ride to series’ championships and finally a win in the 1998 Great American Race. He also contributes fresh interviews with car owners, crew chiefs, competitors and friends that explain “why” certain things happened during Earnhardt’s legendary career.

As most fans of NASCAR Cup racing know, Earnhardt had won seven Winston Cup Championships and recorded 70 series’ wins leading up to that long-awaited 1998 victory. No one will ever forget seeing personnel from every team lining pit road after the checkered flag to finally congratulate the popular winner.

But just three Februarys later, Houston gives us a detailed word picture of the last lap crash that ended a legendary career; a fatal crash that later brought about safety initiatives that have saved driver’s lives worldwide.

Fans will appreciate the detail found in Houston’s hardcover book, subtitled The Intimidator’s Quest to Conquer the Great American Race, which contains 240 pages with 113 color/bw photos, many of which have rarely been seen before.
Contact the publishers, Car Tech Inc., at www.cartechbooks.com.

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”