In 1985, you couldn’t ask for a better duo battling it out for a win at Bristol Motor Speedway. That’s exactly what we got with Dale Earnhardt and Ricky Rudd, who combined to lead 377 out of the 500 laps in the 1985 Valleydale 500.
Rudd looked to be in control with 25 laps to go, but a late caution between Don Hume and Clark Dwyer set up a duel between Rudd and Earnhardt on the restart with 20 laps to go. Adding intrigue to the battle, Earnhardt had driven for Bud Moore prior to the 1984 season and Rudd had driven for Richard Childress prior to that season. In 1984, Earnhardt moved over to drive the No. 3 Chevrolet for RCR, while Rudd took over the No. 15 Ford for Moore.
Earnhardt started trying to go the high side and even gave Rudd a little tap to let him know he was close by. “The Intimidator” then went to the inside to get the lead over the course of two laps from Rudd — eventually getting the top spot with 18 to go thanks to his use of the chrome horn to move Rudd up the track and the two battled side-by-side for several laps.
In the end, it was Earnhardt who would go on to win. Rudd, who never earned a win at Bristol, went on to finish second. Earnhardt also drove the last 400 laps with no power steering, making the win that much more impressive.
Future NASCAR Hall of Famers Terry Labonte, Buddy Baker and Rusty Wallace took spots third through fifth.
Earnhardt would go on to win the summer race at Bristol in 1985 to sweep both Cup races at the .533-mile track for the first of two season sweeps at the “World’s Fastest Half Mile” in his Hall of Fame career. He would win nine times at the track in his Cup career.
Check out the late-race battle between Dale Earnhardt and Ricky Rudd in this Classic Race Replay of the 1985 Valleydale 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.