Dale Jarret Wins
24 August 1997BRISTOL, TN -- Beating and banging. Long and frequent cautions periods. After the race is over all the competitors can say is, "That's racing at Bristol." But for Dale Jarrett, in the Quality Care Ford, victory makes the experience worth it.
Jarrett, on the way to his first career short track victory, had to dodge a few bullets and even a grenade or two. "Things can happen in a hurry on a short track," commented Jarrett. "But we were able to start up front and that enabled us to run our race."
Jarrett started the race under the lights in the third position and picked up the point on the second lap after pole sitter Kenny Wallace slid up the track and opened the door for Jarrett. Jarrett took off and built a goodly lead over the field in the first few laps. It was at that point that Jeff Gordon turned on the heat and started to reel in Jarrett and on lap 13 pickup up the point.
Gordon and Jarrett would dice it up pretty good, well when Jarrett would get close enough to play bumper tag with the Wonder Boy. Gordon was in fact the dominant force until a lap 245 incident between him and Geoff Bodine, who knocked Gordon trying to get a lap back. Then, while Gordon fought to get control of the DuPont Chevrolet, Jeramy Mayfield knocked him into the inside wall on the backstraight crippling his ride for the evening. The DuPont Monte Carlo suffered heavy damage to the right rear body works as well as kicking the rear end over several inches. The Rainbow Warriors went to work and got him back on the track where he would finish in 35th position, some 135 laps off the mark.
From there it was a battle of the Fords. It was Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett taking turns on the point as the pair carved up the field leaving only nine drivers on the lead lap when the checkers fell.
"As a driver, if you have confidence in that guy in the pits - the guy calling the shots, you don't have to think a lot about it," commented Jarrett. "We think a lot alike and we went back and forth with a lot of scenarios. The last time Todd (Parrott - crew chief of the #88) said exactly what I was thinking. That enabled us to have the success that we've had because we do think a lot a like."
Mark Martin, who finished second and grabbed the Winston Cup points lead from Jeff Gordon said, "Nobody probably had anything for Jeff Gordon here tonight, but he had trouble and we closed up the points. We had to finish this thing. We would have loved to have to have won it but we didn't. It was a good run for us and that's what we needed to do. We gave it our best shot."
It was the 'old man' Dick Trickle who finished third. Trickle, after digging a hole for himself earlier in the race by spinning on the track, picked up two positions in the last ten laps to score his best Winston Cup career finish. Trickle jumped from his car and screamed, "I won....I won." Then in a much lower voice said, "third place."
The drivers that rounded out the top-five were Jeff Burton and Steve Grissom. This was also a career best finish for Grissom.
The red flag was displayed after David Green took a hellacious ride down the front straight after his car flipped on its side. The Caterpillar Chevrolet then flipped onto its roof then back on to its wheels. Green had to be extracted from his ride and was transported to Bristol Regional Medical Center where he was diagnosed with a broken scapula.
Martin leaves Bristol with the series points lead after Gordon had his problems. Gordon is second, 13 points behind. Jarrett, Labonte and Jeff Burton round out the top-five contenders.
The race took 3 hours 19 minutes 51 seconds to complete and held an average speed of 80.010 miles per hour. Jarrett's margin of victory over Martin was 0.102 seconds. The caution flag flew a total of 12 times for 97 laps.
The next race is the Mountain Dew Southern 500 and will be run August 31st at Darlington Raceway.
Mike Snow -- The Auto Channel