Busch winner a Dale, but Jarrett this time Earnhardt finishes 3rd in bid for 7th crown

February 12, 1996|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- When the 18th Busch Clash was over, a Dale had won, but it wasn't the traditional one. This one was Dale Jarrett, who held off Sterling Marlin to take the checkered flag and collect $62,000 in the all-star race for last season's pole-winners.

"It was one for the books," said Jarrett, who joined Jeff Gordon, the 1993 winner and the defending Winston Cup champion, as the only drivers to win this race in their first tries. "Everybody seemed to want to follow [Dale] Earnhardt up front. In most cases, that's great, but it opened up a line for me."

Earnhardt would be the Dale most of the 40,000 fans at Daytona International Speedway might have expected to win. But Earnhardt, who has won this race six times in nine tries, including last year, could not overcome a bad engine and finished third in the final segment.

Marlin won the first segment in his Chevrolet and finished second to Jarrett in the second segment to pocket $50,000.

"We changed to our qualifying engine before the race, and it just wouldn't run like the engine we had in the car during practice," said Earnhardt of the motor that has put him on the Daytona 500 pole for the first time in 18 years here. "It just wouldn't go. When I stepped on the gas at the start, I thought I blew a piston, and it ran like it had a dead cylinder."

Asked if he had learned anything from the day's activities that could help next Sunday in the Daytona 500, Earnhardt grinned.

"Yeah, I learned if you ain't got no motor, you can't draft. I learned I don't want a sorry-running motor Sunday. I want a good-running motor."

Jarrett certainly had one yesterday. Driving his new royal blue and red Ford, he averaged 184.995 mph and came from far behind in each of the two segments.

In the first half, he started 12th and finished second to Marlin. Then he started 15th in the second segment, as starting positions are determined by reversing the order of finish in the first segment.

"When you've got a good car, you just hang on," Jarrett said. "But the key was I was able to get behind Earnhardt just past the middle of Turn 3 on the first lap. Then Kenny Schrader came along and helped me get the lead and all those Chevys started racing each other side-by-side instead of trying to draft past me."

Jarrett, who won the Daytona 500 in 1993, said his Ford's win yesterday shouldn't give Ford fans any false hope for the future. Overall, Chevrolets have a wider rear end than stock Fords, creating better down force, which allows them to stick to the track better.

Even in yesterday's short run, four of the top six payoff spots went to Chevrolet drivers. Jarrett was separated from Ricky Rudd's sixth-place Ford by the Chevrolets of Marlin, Earnhardt, Terry Labonte and Schrader.

"Thursday's 125-mile races and Sunday's 500 are a whole different story," Jarrett said. "I don't want to complain right after winning a race, but this race was two 10-lap sprint races on new tires. What we don't know is how the car will handle after 30 laps on worn tires. But we've done a lot of hard work in the off-season, and we've created a little down force with the hood. I think we've improved from a year ago, but this race doesn't tell us how much."

NOTES: Jeff Purvis in his X-1R Chevrolet won the 33rd Daytona ARCA 200 by two car lengths over Tim Steele, completing the 80-lap race in 1 hour, 20 minutes, 29 seconds at an average speed of 149.099 mph.

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