Jarrett charges back from spin to win Pepsi 400
Sunday, August 18th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) _ Dale Jarrett spun his fortunes around with a patient run to the front.
Jarrett rebounded from a spin on the 12th lap and passed Jeff Burton with five laps to go to win the Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.
``These victories are hard to come by now, so you have to work extremely hard,'' Jarrett said. ``You almost have to have a perfect day.
``Fortunately, our problems came early in the day and we were able to adjust on the car and make it really good later.''
Jarrett's 30th career victory _ and fourth at Michigan _ came on the 11th anniversary of his first one, when he edged the late Davey Allison by inches on the two-mile track. Jarrett also won this race in 1996, the last time it was held on Aug. 18.
The Ford driver has two victories this year, also winning the June race at Pocono.
``I knew I had plenty of time to get there if I was just patient and made the right moves, and when you've got a car like this that's easier to do,'' Jarrett said. ``I'm very proud of these guys for fighting and staying after this.''
Burton stretched his fuel for the final 53 laps, but it was an overheating engine that was a bigger concern. With two laps to go in the 200-lap race, Burton's car began spewing water and trailing smoke, but he held on to finish fourth.
``I don't know what it was but I kept losing water,'' Burton said. ``We really did a good job, all the guys on the crew. We came in and put water in it. That's what kept us going as long as it did.''
Tony Stewart finished second in a Pontiac, about 2 seconds back, and Kevin Harvick was third in a Chevrolet. Mark Martin trailed Burton to the line, with point leader Sterling Marlin sixth.
``We could get a real good run on Jeff Burton, especially the first half of (Turn) 3, and just kept trying to dive under him up there,'' Stewart said. ``Everybody just did their homework and we had a really good day.''
Jarrett's team decided to take four tires during the sixth caution with on lap 164, while the rest of the front-runners _ except Burton _ took just two. The decision put Jarrett back to 17th on the restart, but he steadily made progress through the field.
``A lot of times we get criticized for getting four sometimes, but I think that's probably won us more races that it has lost us,'' Jarrett said.
He took fifth from Bobby Labonte with 20 to go, then passed Kevin Harvick for fourth three laps later.
A final caution for Derrike Cope's crash on lap 186 set up a final dash for the checkered flag, with Burton leading Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jarrett. Earnhardt got by Stewart with 10 laps left, but neither could hold off Jarrett.
He moved past both to second on lap 192, then closed in on Burton. With five to go, Jarrett drove to the inside in Turn 4 and pulled easily into the lead, leaving Burton to race with the others.
``I won't lie about being disappointed, because if you're not disappointed about that, then you don't want to win very bad,'' Burton said. ``We stayed out, because you never know what was going to happen.''
Rookie Jimmie Johnson finished seventh, followed by Johnny Benson, Jeff Green and Earnhardt, who fought an ill-handling car over the final laps.
Jarrett's spin came after he had just passed Steve Park for 12th. Coming off Turn 4, Jarrett pulled in front of Park but immediately got sideways, sliding down through the infield grass but not damaging the car.
He rumbled his fender a bit when he pulled away, but crew chief Todd Parrott and the team were able to fix the problem under the caution. Jarrett fell back to 43rd before making his run to the front.
``I saw D.J. spinning down through the grass and couldn't believe it, because I knew what a good car we had,'' Parrott said.
The race was the first after a rule change by NASCAR that allowed General Motors teams to bump their front air dams out slightly; Chevrolet was given an extra inch, and Pontiac a half-inch. Although Ford and Dodge teams speculated the move would leave their cars uncompetitive, all manufacturers had cars near the top of the leaderboard.
``It definitely didn't hurt,'' said Bobby Labonte, who finished 13th. ``In reality, we changed a lot of other stuff, too.''
Bill Elliott, looking for his third victory in four races, led early but fell back when his Dodge began jumping out of gear. He drove most of the final 150 laps one-handed, keeping his right hand on the gearshift, and finished on the lead lap in 22nd.
``I really don't know what caused the transmission problem,'' Elliott said. ``We were pretty good at the beginning, but you've got to be there at the end, too.''