Mike Joy Reveals Key Detail From Iconic Dale Earnhardt Daytona Win

Dale Earnhardt

Getty Dale Earnhardt drives down pit road after winning the Daytona 500.

FOX Sports broadcaster Mike Joy has been on the call for countless standout moments in NASCAR history. One of the biggest was Dale Earnhardt finally winning the Daytona 500 after 20 years of trying.

Earnhardt entered the 1998 Daytona 500 with a legendary resume. He had 70 career wins up to that point, as well as seven Cup Series championships. However, he had not conquered the biggest race in NASCAR despite coming close on several different occasions.

This fact was something that stuck with Joy as he prepared to call the Crown Jewel event for CBS in 1998. He wanted to know the reason why Earnhardt had previously failed to win the Daytona 500, so he turned to two men with some of the best research skills in the business — stats aficionado Patrick Perrin, who now works for FOX Sports, and author Greg Fielden.

“I charged them at the start of the week with, ‘I want to know every detail of every 500 Dale Earnhardt’s ever run, what happened and why,'” Joy told Heavy ahead of the 2023 season. “And they put it together. They knew that there were only, I think, four laps of the race that he had never led, lap 200, of course, and a couple of laps in the 90s, all of which he led that day.

“They also had the information where I could go, ‘Alright, 20 laps to go. Earnhardt’s in the lead. He’s been in this position how many times?’ We knew that all the way to the finish. And I think maybe at 20 to go, and at least by 10 to go, the whole country, unless they were related to another driver, they were pulling for Earnhardt to finally get this done. And of course, he did.”

This Preparation Set Up a Historic Moment

Dale Earnhardt

ISC Images & Archives via Getty ImagesDale Earnhardt celebrates his first Daytona 500 win.

Joy had the information at his fingertips, and he was ready to deliver it if Earnhardt finally achieved his career goal. Though the outcome was in doubt late in the race as drivers such as Rusty Wallace, Jeremy Mayfield, and Bobby Labonte all challenged for the win late. Mayfield, in particular, hit Earnhardt from behind and got the No. 3 loose for a few moments.

Earnhardt ultimately sealed the win with one lap to go. An incident further back in the field collected the cars of Lake Speed and John Andretti. This meant that the first driver back to the start-finish line would take the white flag and the yellow caution flag, thus becoming the winner.

Labonte made a late charge and attempted a pass in his green Pontiac, but he could not work his way around the driver of the black No. 3. Earnhardt used lapped traffic as a blocker and kept his spot at the front of the pack all the way to the start-finish line.

“20 years of trying, 20 years of frustration,” Joy said as Earnhardt led the way around the final turn. “Dale Earnhardt will come to the caution flag to win the Daytona 500! Finally!”

“So that call, the race call, and the words as he came around the final turn, It just came to me — the whole thing about 20 years,” Joy explained. “It just came to me, and I was blessed having Ned Jarrett and Buddy Baker in the booth with me. They didn’t interrupt or step on what I was doing there. And I’ve had some fellows that like to do that. So they were great with it.”

A Quick Decision Led to Another Iconic Moment

Mike Joy

GettyMike Joy meets with media members ahead of the Busch Light Clash.

Joy’s call as Earnhardt crossed the start-finish line forever has a place in NASCAR history. Fans will hear it in their minds as they reminisce about The Intimidator finally winning the Daytona 500.

This is also true for the visual of Earnhardt slowly driving down pit road as every single person in the garage stood by waiting to congratulate him. Though the broadcast almost missed this moment due to schedules in place.

“As Earnhardt came around and came down pit road — usually, we’d be going to commercial,” Joy said. “Jim Cornell at CBS — who produced the SRX races the last two years — but Jim was the AD, associate director. He was in charge of getting us to break, and the producer, Lance Barrow, was calling for commercial. ‘All right, let’s go to commercial in 10, nine…’

“Cornell went, ‘Wait a minute, something’s happening here!’ And that’s how we were able to capture that whole receiving line, impromptu receiving line down pit road, and [see] Earnhardt go out and spin a number three in the grass and all of that. I’m particularly proud of that show, not for what I did, but for what we all did to bring Dale Earnhardt his Daytona 500 win. So yes, if one stands out, it’s got to be that one.”

The 1998 Daytona 500 will forever be a highlight of Joy’s career, and it will always stand out as a major moment in NASCAR history. After all, he was the voice of Earnhardt checking off a career goal.

Will any other call match the 1998 Daytona 500? That answer is unclear, but Joy will return to the booth on February 19 as several other champions attempt to snap their own frustrating winless streaks, and he will potentially call another historic moment.

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