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Jarrett beats Busch in late battle at Rockingham

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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (AP) _ Dale Jarrett has no problem with NASCAR's ``young guns'' getting all the attention. Especially when he keeps them out of Victory Lane.

Dale Jarrett scored one for the old drivers Sunday, outfoxing Kurt Busch during the final laps to win the Subway 400 at North Carolina Speedway.

Jarrett, using veteran moves to slice his way through traffic and years of experience to save his tires, played a back-and-forth passing game with Busch, a third-year driver still trying to get a grasp on how to race with old graybeards.

``Those guys are very talented and all the press they are getting is well deserved because they do a great job _ but this one is for the older generation,'' Jarrett said. ``I think it shows that we're still ready to battle.''

It was Jarrett's second win at Rockingham and the first Winston Cup victory for new crew chief Brad Parrott.

It also made the veterans 2-for-2 this season following 39-year-old Michael Waltrip's Daytona 500 win last week.

``Michael won last week and he's kind of in that middle ground _ he's not the young spring chicken and he's not up to the older guys yet,'' Jarrett said. ``So we're giving them a race and I think that we can. I'm 46 years old and I can hang with them at any track that we go to.''

He needed crafty moves over the final 10 laps to send Busch, the hottest driver in the series right now, to his second-straight runner-up finish.

Busch had the strongest car late in the race, leading 150 laps with few challenges from the rest of the field after he got up front.

But Jarrett passed him 10 laps from the finish by first pinning him against the wall, then using lapped traffic to box him in and slide on past.

Busch regained the lead with five laps to go, passing him after a stirring side-by-side duel.

Jarrett, conserving his tires while Busch burned rubber trying to keep the lead, went by him one more time and led the final three laps for his 31st career victory.

``I'm real proud of the way Dale Jarrett and I raced,'' Busch said. ``If that doesn't get you pumped, I don't know what to do. I don't know what we need to do to get to Victory Lane, but we'll get there.''

The 24-year-old Busch, who closed last season with three wins in the final five races, emerged as the early favorite for the Winston Cup championship. He takes a 31-point lead over Jarrett in the standings into next week's race in Las Vegas, his hometown.

``Kurt has a good feel for the car and knows what he wants,'' Jarrett said. ``He will drive a car harder than anybody else out here, but he's not out of control doing it.''

Matt Kenseth, who won this race last year, was third to give Roush Racing second and third place finishes and a Ford sweep of the top three spots.

Ricky Craven was fourth in a Pontiac and rookie Jamie McMurray finished fifth in a Dodge.

Rusty Wallace, making his 600th career start, led a race-high 182 laps early in the event but faded to a sixth place finish. Roush Racing driver Mark Martin was seventh and was followed by Jimmie Johnson, Elliott Sadler _ Jarrett's new teammate _ and pole-sitter Dave Blaney.

The Chevrolets were expected to be strong Sunday after winning everything at Daytona last week, but Johnson's eighth-place finish was the best showing for the Monte Carlos.

Bobby Labonte actually was racing for the win late in the race, but gambled on fuel strategy and had to give up the third position to stop for gas with less than 10 laps to go. He ended up 16th.

Waltrip, winner of the Daytona 500 last week, was never a factor and finished 19th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., his teammate, had a miserable day. He made contact with Jeff Gordon early in the race, causing him to eventually blow his left front tire.

But the timing was perfect: The tire gave way just as NASCAR threw a planned caution 45 laps into the race for teams to make adjustments on their cars.

It saved Earnhardt from going a lap down, which was eventual anyway. He was involved in three of the seven cautions for spinning out and ended up 33rd, three laps down.

``We just didn't have a very good day,'' Waltrip said. ``The DEI cars looked about the opposite of what we looked at Daytona. We're just missing something here.''

Poor weather all weekend meant almost no track time for the teams _ they had just one hour of practice before Friday's qualifying and rain washed out all action on Saturday.

So teams had to gamble with setups on a cold and windy day that created ever-changing track conditions. But the racing was still very good with 21 lead changes among 11 different drivers.

That won't help Rockingham, though, in its bid to keep two Winston Cup races when NASCAR realigns its schedule next season. The grandstands, which hold 60,000 fans, were half empty.
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