Gordon familiar with D. Jarrett's tracks


April 15, 2001|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Jeff Gordon looked at the Winston Cup standings, listened to the question and couldn't help but see the comparison.

Dale Jarrett is No. 1 and Gordon No. 2 in the series standings. When Gordon was No. 1 a few years ago and dominating the Winston Cup scene, he didn't get much credit for it. He drove for Rick Hendrick, a great car owner. He had Ray Evernham as his crew chief, a man everyone recognized as the best in the business.

Sometimes Gordon, who won his first title at age 24, just seemed to be along for the ride.

"I think Dale's talent does get overlooked because of the situation he's in," Gordon said. "He's got Todd Parrott, a great crew chief. He drives for Robert Yates, a great team owner with great experience. Yeah, sure I've been in that position.

"But, if Dale is like me, it doesn't matter to him. I always thought it doesn't matter as long as I'm out there winning. But maybe too much emphasis is put on one person and not enough on another."

Gordon was NASCAR's youngest champion and won three titles between 1995 and 1998. Jarrett won his first Winston Cup in 1999 at age 42. Now, at 44, he seems poised to take a strong shot at a second.

In a season that started with a different winner in each of the first four races, Jarrett has somehow managed to win three of the first eight - including the past two.

"That last one at Martinsville, that got my attention," said Gordon, who lost 48 points to Jarrett there and is 123 behind. "When you've won the championship before, you think about it from the very first race. But when you've won the pole, like I did at Martinsville, and you'd been ahead of him most of the day and he winds up winning and you finish 12th - then you really start thinking about what you're going to have to do to win that title."

When Jarrett won the title in 1999, he took the points lead at Richmond International Raceway, in the 11th race of the season, and never spent one day out of first over the next 24 weeks.

We'll see if he can do the same thing in 2001.

More on Jarrett

Over the past few weeks, teammates have been giving obvious demonstrations of favoritism during Winston Cup races, letting each other get laps back. But last Sunday, Jarrett demonstrated what teammate competition should be.

Jarrett's teammate, Ricky Rudd, was leading at Martinsville with 10 laps to go. As Jarrett worked his way up to Rudd's rear bumper, he knew Rudd hasn't won a race in two years and was a sentimental favorite.

Jarrett could have simply stayed behind Rudd. He could have said he couldn't make the pass. Or, he could have made the pass, picked up five bonus points for leading a lap, and then let Rudd pass him again. Yates, who owns the two cars, could have told Jarrett to give Rudd a break.

But Yates said nothing and Jarrett didn't let Rudd win. Jarrett passed Rudd with seven laps to go and pulled away.

"I'm sorry Ricky couldn't get the win," Jarrett said. "But my car was just a little bit better today."

That's the way it's supposed to work.

A one-two knockout

When Sam Hornish, 21, and Sarah Fisher, 20, finished 1-2 at Homestead last weekend, they became the youngest 1-2 finishers in Indy racing history.

It was Hornish's second win in two races. For Fisher, the second-place finish was the best by a woman in open-wheel racing, beating the third-place finish she had last season at Kentucky Speedway.

"I tried to catch him," Fisher said. "[But] the fact that I didn't catch Sam doesn't matter. I'm happy where I ended up. I think it's great that Sam and I are up front racing together again."

Neither Hornish nor Fisher could remember the first time they raced each other. But Hornish said they raced often in go-carts from the time they were 11.

Driver Eliseo Salazar, 45, had been critical of Fisher previously but was complimentary after he finished third last weekend.

"Well, I congratulated her," he said. "You might have a problem with your car, but someone has to have the talent to pass you. When I was critical of her ... I wasn't critical of her because she's a girl. I was critical because people may be coming into this too soon. But both of them [Hornish and Fisher] are younger together than I am, so what can I say?"

Behind the scenes

Who would have thought one of the best documentaries on what goes on in and around Winston Cup racing would be on MTV? But that's the situation as the pop-culture network turns its cameras on for "True Life: I Drive Race Cars."

Centered on Dale Earnhardt Jr., the piece will be moving to stock car fans who have a fondness for Dale Jr. and his dad, the late seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt.

MTV's cameras catch some father-son moments and allow Dale Jr. to talk about his dad and their relationship. All of it was filmed before the elder Earnhardt's death at Daytona in February.

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