DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt looked as if he could have run all night, and for a while yesterday it looked as if he would have to.
Darkness was closing in on the rain-delayed Twin 125-mile races here by the time Earnhardt's black-as-night Chevy Lumina crossed the finish line just in front of Ernie Irvan to capture the second race.
Pole-sitter Davey Allison proved he was more than a one-lap wonder by winning from flag to flag in the first race. But it was Richard Petty, the people's choice, who once again had the crowd on its feet when he nosed out Hut Stricklin for second place in the opener.
The result set up a showdown Sunday between Earnhardt, who has appeared almost as invincible this year as he was for most of last year's race, and Allison, who has merely done everything that has been asked of him this week.
Because Allison did not run in last Sunday's Busch Clash he and Earnhardt have yet to cross sheet metal on the track this year.
Petty, the fading "King" who last year thrilled the crowd here when he led one of the 125s for a while, got almost down onto the grass to nip Stricklin at the stripe on the 49th lap of the opener, just after a two-car wreck between turns three and four ** had brought out the only caution of the race, which was finished under the yellow.
Petty's son Kyle joined Earnhardt and Irvan in a three-car -- to the wire in the second race, but neither of the challengers was able to put a move on the intimidating "Man in Black" who had charged into the lead on the first lap and held on all the way.
The second race was marred by a frightening one-car crash involving Brett Bodine, who, miraculously, walked away under his own power after having to be cut out of the car.
The rear of Bodine's Buick slid out as the car was leaving the fourth turn on lap 22. The back end tagged the outside wall, and the car then careened full speed into the inside wall near the head of the pits.
The green flag didn't drop on the first race until 4:28 p.m., nearly four hours after the scheduled start. Allison went immediately to the front, and, except for Petty and Stricklin, there was almost no passing.