CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When Bill Elliott goes for a NASCAR Winston Cup modern era win streak record Sunday at Bristol (Tenn.) Raceway, Dale Earnhardt tries to keep an important personal mark intact.
If Elliott, driving the Junior Johnson team's Ford, takes the Food City 500 it will be his fifth consecutive win. No one has achieved that since Richard Petty and Bobby Allison in 1971, when the schedule included 46 races. Stock car racing's so-called modern period began the next year, when NASCAR cut its top tour back to 31 events, a number that since has been reduced to 29.
As Elliott has sizzled, Earnhardt and his Richard Childress Racing team have fizzled.
Earnhardt, going for a third title in a row, has finished ninth, 24th, 11th, third and 10th this season.
During none of Earnhardt's championship campaigns -- 1980, '86, '87, '90 and '91 -- has he gone deeper than six races into the season without winning. Bristol is this season's sixth race. During three other years since becoming a Winston Cup regular in '79, Earnhardt also has won before this point.
So what gives?
Earnhardt's team is one of only three running General Motors products to use Chevy's new 18-degree high port cylinder heads all season. That's in preparation for the season's second half, when those heads -- still under development -- ecome mandatory for GM cars.
Plus, Earnhardt's car has been plagued by handling problems.