Yawns greet Jarrett after Michigan win

Gordon 2nd in race lacking thrills, chills

June 14, 1999|By KNIGHT RIDDER / TRIBUNE

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The good news from the Kmart 400 was there were no caution periods. There were no wrecks, the forecasted rain never materialized and no mysterious roll-bar padding was found on the back straightaway.

The bad news from the Kmart 400 was the almost total lack of drama. After 11 early lead changes, Dale Jarrett moved to the front on Lap 53 and never looked back. The four cars behind him -- those of Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Ward Burton and Bobby Labonte -- never changed their order over the last 40 laps and only three others finished less than two laps behind.

At least they got the problems affecting traffic heading to Michigan Speedway fixed. As for getting the crowd back out in timely fashion, well, that would involve going around and waking everyone first.

In what has, unfortunately, become all too commonplace at this venue, yesterday's race lacked action. The record crowd of 153,000 watched lap after lap of the 200-lap race with little.

They came, they saw, they left.

This is Winston Cup racing?

"Sitting as a fan, I hate to see a race like that," Jarrett said. "But from where I was sitting, there couldn't be anything better than to have a day where you had an almost perfect race car with no cautions or anything to interrupt that."

If you missed the race, or turned the channel to watch NFL Europe after it became clear this would be another Michigan snoozer, don't believe Jarrett's minuscule, .505-second margin of victory.

He was rarely less than a straightaway ahead of Gordon throughout the last 150 laps, building a lead of nearly 10 seconds at one point. It wasn't until the final 20 laps, when Jarrett had the race in hand and started easing up to preserve his car, that Gordon started closing the gap. Jarrett ended up winning with a record-setting average speed of 173.997 mph.

"There's not a whole lot that comes in your mind other than is there going to be a caution or is that guy going to break in front of me," Gordon said of chasing such a front-runner.

Meanwhile, third-place Jeff Burton was pretty sure Jarrett started the same race, but would never be able to prove it, since he was always a half-lap behind.

"There's basketball games that are blowouts, there are golf matches that are blowouts, there are races that are blowouts," Burton said. "A lot of times this year, we've had incredible races.

"Any sporting event provides an opportunity for one of those two things to happen. We, fortunately, this year have had more excitement than we've had boredom. Today was a boring race, there's no getting around that.

"The one thing that keeps you in your seat is the thought of a caution. If you've got a caution, the whole race changes. You never know what you're going to get. It's like any other sport."

The caution-free race was NASCAR's first since May 10, 1997, at Talladega and was only the third in Michigan Speedway history. Unfortunately, it also continued a recent trend of boring events at what used to be one of the series' most competitive tracks.

Some have suggested NASCAR should require teams to use restricter plates at Michigan, as it does at Daytona and Talladega. That would make the field closer, but would also likely create the uncompetitive, freight-train style racing that has become common at those tracks.

(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (6) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 200, $151,240.

2. (1) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 200, $90,050.

3. (14) Jeff Burton, Ford, 200, $69,500.

4. (8) Ward Burton, Pontiac, 200, $56,985.

5. (18) Bobby Labonte, Pontiac, 200, $55,565.

6. (10) Steve Park, Chevrolet, 199, $43,275.

7. (2) Ernie Irvan, Pontiac, 199, $47,725.

8. (24) John Andretti, Pontiac, 199, $54,600.

9. (28) Tony Stewart, Pontiac, 198, $34,450.

10. (3) Mark Martin, Ford, 198, $52,250.

11. (12) Kenny Irwin, Ford, 198, $42,740.

12. (13) Rusty Wallace, Ford, 198, $42,200.

13. (4) Ken Schrader, Chevrolet, 198, $39,000.

14. (11) Wally Dallenbach, Chevrolet, 198, $36,400.

15. (16) Michael Waltrip, Chevrolet, 198, $38,140.

16. (15) Dale Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 198, $39,825.

17. (17) Jeremy Mayfield, Ford, 198, $39,300.

18. (33) Mike Skinner, Chevrolet, 198, $34,865.

19. (26) Johnny Benson, Ford, 198, $35,350.

20. (23) Geoffrey Bodine, Chevrolet, 198, $28,160.

21. (19) Kenny Wallace, Chevrolet, 198, $30,055.

22. (7) Sterling Marlin, Chevrolet, 197, $33,700.

23. (37) Terry Labonte, Chevrolet, 197, $38,165.

24. (41) Rich Bickle, Pontiac, 197, $26,355.

25. (32) Ted Musgrave, Ford, 197, $26,420.

26. (20) Jerry Nadeau, Ford, 197, $26,760.

27. (39) Kyle Petty, Pontiac, 197, $25,700.

28. (34) Chad Little, Ford, 197, $32,640.

29. (31) Kevin Lepage, Ford, 197, $32,005.

30. (40) Brett Bodine, Ford, 197, $29,665.

31. (38) Bobby Hamilton, Chevrolet, 197, $37,310.

32. (27) Derrike Cope, Pontiac, 197, $22,240.

33. (21) Dave Blaney, Pontiac, 197, $22,135.

34. (9) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 197, $30,065.

35. (42) David Green, Chevrolet, 197, $22,495.

36. (36) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 197, $29,450.

37. (30) Rick Mast, Ford, 196, $21,890.

38. (35) Ricky Rudd, Ford, 196, $28,780.

39. (25) Darrell Waltrip, Ford, 195, $21,770.

40. (43) Loy Allen, Ford, 195, $21,760.

41. (5) Bill Elliott, Ford, 193, $28,750.

42. (22) Robert Pressley, Ford, 188, $21,740.

43. (29) Jimmy Spencer, Ford, 159, engine failure, $32,530.

Time of race: 2 hours, 17 minutes, 56 seconds. Margin of victory: .505 seconds. Average speed: 173.997 mph. Lead changes: 12 among 7 drivers. Caution laps: 0 for 0 laps. Lap leaders: Ernie Irvan 1-4, Mark Martin 5-21, Bill Elliott 22-24, Jeff Gordon 25, Elliott 26-28, Gordon 29-45, Jeff Burton 46, Gordon 47, Dale Jarrett 48-49, Gordon 50, Bobby Labonte 51-52, Jarrett 53-200. Points: Dale Jarrett 2169, Jeff Burton 2103, Bobby Labonte 2075, Mark Martin 1993, Tony Stewart 1838, Jeff Gordon 1820.

Pub Date: 6/14/99

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