Jarrett serves notice, takes Shootout flag

Daytona pole-sitter leads only last lap

February 14, 2000|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- In the past two days, defending Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett has sent out announcements that this Daytona 500 week may be the start of his second championship season.

First came his pole-winning performance for Sunday's Daytona 500. And then yesterday, on the last lap of the Bud Shootout, an all-star race for last season's pole winners, Jarrett and his Ford were able to come out of seemingly nowhere to win at Daytona International Speedway.

Jarrett parlayed a fine pit stop and a side-by-side battle between Jeff Gordon and Sterling Marlin into the third turn of the final lap for victory.

"It kind of reminded me of Cale [Yarborough] and Bobby [Allison]," said Marlin, recalling the 1979 Daytona 500 classic in which Allison pushed Yarborough onto the grass going into that third turn. In 1979, Yarborough and Allison crashed and Richard Petty became the surprise winner of the 500 for a record seventh and final time.

The main differences this time were that Gordon and Marlin, who finished second and third, respectively, did not wreck and did not get into a fistfight.

Yesterday, Marlin, on the outside, backed off before Gordon's wheels hit the grass. The battle, however, slowed their momentum enough for Jarrett to be able to burst past them, thanks to Bobby Labonte, who provided drafting help.

"We had a strategy," said Jarrett, who averaged 182.334 mph in his Robert Yates-owned Ford and led only the final lap. "We started last and knew we'd lose time in the pits if we pitted when everyone else did, so we had decided to stay out and come in a lap later. It was the right decision. Bobby came in with us and then, there at the end, he gave me a boost by staying behind me. And, really, I just sailed off in Turn 3."

While Jarrett was sailing, Labonte's car was getting tapped and crashed by Marlin's ill-handling car, and Ricky Rudd, running second less than a lap earlier, was flying. His car flipped into the air and landed on its roof.

"I couldn't really tell you exactly what happened," said Rudd, whose car took to the air after Labonte and Marlin hit after Jarrett's pass. "But when I was sliding along on my roof, there was no violence inside the car and I'm thinking the whole time, I'm kind of scrunched up thinking, `Man, I hope nobody hits me when I'm upside down.' "

No one did, and Rudd emerged uninjured.

Mark Martin's jack man, Mike Ehret, wasn't quite as lucky. During the mandatory pit stop, when all but Jarrett and Labonte pitted, Martin's brakes didn't work and the Ford hit Ehret as he was trying to get around the front of the car. Ehret suffered only a bruised ankle.

"The brakes got hot coming off the racetrack and I couldn't stop," Martin said. "I didn't really come in the pit stall, but he was trying to get around the car and I was just helpless. I had to just sit there and watch it."

Hendrick sighting

Rick Hendrick, owner of the Gordon, Terry Labonte and Jerry Nadeau teams, was spotted in the garage area yesterday. It was an unfamiliar sight. Hendrick has been absent from the sport most of the past three years, recovering from leukemia.

"Looking around here, at all the growth that's been going on while I was away, it's like being in a time capsule for me," Hendrick said.

Sutton looking forward

Crownsville's Kelly Sutton, who was attempting to qualify for and race in Saturday's Goody's Dash, was anticipating the future yesterday.

Her dream had been to come and race at Daytona. Instead, she came and practiced, passing her rookie test with the "thumbs up" sign from NASCAR. Her car's engine blew up during qualifying, keeping her from the race, but afterward, she learned that her sponsor, COPAXONE, the medication she uses to control outbreaks of her multiple sclerosis, is looking to go forward with other Dash races this season and another attempt at Daytona next year.

"It was fantastic," she said of driving her race car on the 2.5-mile Superspeedway. "Definitely a rush. And I gained experience, learning there is definitely a difference from short tracks."

She said she had a "hard" moment when the race was run without her, but then brightened. "I got to get on Daytona [International Speedway]," said Sutton.

Sutton's efforts to get here were made even more difficult by a series of mishaps. Bad weather here wiped out her initial rookie test. A Maryland snowstorm and a broken cable combined to contribute to damage to her race car and her family's car. And a hunting accident sent her best friend and former husband, Eddie Housley, to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

But she made it here and Housley is recovering.

"He's out of critical care and in rehabilitation," she said. "And next year, I'll get to try to make the race again. Maybe then we'll have better luck."

All is not equal

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