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The Callahan Report: Mark Martin Wins Dover With Fuel Mileage

22 September 1997

DOVER, DE: Never give up. That is the attitude Mark Martin had as he started his twenty-first NASCAR Winston Cup race at Dover Delaware's Monster Mile. Mark Martin won the MBNA 400 with a record speed of 132.719 mph.

[ Mark Martin
]Mark Martin

Martin has had the best car at Dover several times. Today was not one of those times. Martin's victory -came from fuel mileage. Martin commented, "We've had a lot of problems here in the past. Any other year we would have run well, and blow a tire and hit the wall." He continued, "Jack Roush won this race on fuel mileage. I'd been grousing about that a lot, and Jack said he'd win me a race on fuel. We used to come up short, but today we came up big."

So who had the best car? Hands down ... it was Kyle Petty in the Hot Wheels Pontiac. Petty's last career victory came at Dover in 1995. He looked to be ready to repeat but the lack of cautions cost him the race. Petty made four pit stops .... Martin and second place finisher, Dale Earnhardt, made only three stops.

[ Kyle Petty ]Kyle Petty

Martin needed the points in this race, but he knew Petty deserved to win. He said, "We had everybody out there covered today but Kyle Petty, and Jack Roush had him covered. I hated that he didn't win the race, but we needed one too. He had us beat bad."

On lap 162, Petty took the lead and held it until 20 laps remaining in the 400 lap event. He stretched his lead to 25 seconds at one point. Petty reflected on his frustrating run, "We didn't get beat on the track, we got beat on fuel mileage." Petty made no excuses by stating, "But fuel mileage is part of the game."

Petty was nearly able to salvage a second place finish out of the race. He finished only a couple feet behind the black Chevy of Earnhardt.

Earnhardt was never a serious threat to win the race. He finished a distant 10 seconds behind Martin's Ford. Earnhardt's winless streak now stands at 53. His team owner, Richard Childress attributes the poor performance of his team to NASCAR. "We're glad to have a good run today, but there is no way the Chevrolets can handle the Fords or the Pontiacs," he said. "You can call it crying, complaining or whatever you want to. But facts are facts." Childress concluded, "We need to lower our roofs about an inch or an inch and a half. Whatever the wind tunnel numbers tell them, that's what we need."

[ Richard Childress ]Richard Childress

Childress' comments were raised as a result of the lopsided win count between Ford and Chevy's this season. Of the twenty-six NASCAR races held so far, only one Chevrolet team has visited victory lane. That team has visited the winner's circle plenty. NASCAR Winston Cup points leader, Jeff Gordon, has driven the Dupont Chevy 10 victories in 1997. Fords have won the other sixteen races. The Ford victories have been spread over several drivers.

The Dupont team was not able to work their normal miracles during today's race. With only one caution flag, the Rainbow Warriors pit crew of Jeff Gordon did not have time to correct handling problems. Gordon finished the race in seventh place, two laps behind Martin. Gordon's finish was still good enough to hold onto his series points lead. Gordon leads Martin by 105 points with six races left. Gordon said, "The long runs killed us today. Without many cautions, we just didn't have time to fix it (the handling)."

The series points shape up like this: Jeff. Gordon 3,938; Mark Martin 3,833; Dale Jarrett 3,754; Jeff Burton 3,585; Terry Labonte 3,384; Dale Earnhardt 3,373; Bobby Labonte 3,250; Bill Elliott 3,111; Ted Musgrave 2,980; Ricky Rudd 2,955.

Race Results: Finishing position, (starting position), Hometown, State, Car, Laps Completed

1. (1) Mark Martin, Batesville, Ark., Ford, 400
2. (33) Dale Earnhardt, Kannapolis, N.C., Chevrolet, 400
3. (23) Kyle Petty, Randleman, N.C., Pontiac, 400
4. (5) Bobby Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas, Pontiac, 400
5. (3) Dale Jarrett, Hickory, N.C., Ford, 399
6. (16) Ricky Rudd, Chesapeake, Va., Ford, 399
7. (2) Jeff Gordon, Pittsboro, Ind., Chevrolet, 398
8. (13) Bill Elliott, Dawsonville, Ga., Ford, 398
9. (31) Ernie Irvan, Salinas, Calif., Ford, 397
10. (9) Rick Mast, Lexington, Va., Ford, 396
11. (39) Jeff Burton, South Boston, Va., Ford, 396
12. (14) Ken Schrader, Fenton, Mo., Chevrolet, 396
13. (34) Bobby Hamilton, Nashville, Tenn., Pontiac, 396
14. (25) Geoff Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Ford, 396
15. (6) John Andretti, Indianapolis, Ford, 396
16. (22) Rusty Wallace, St. Louis, Ford, 395
17. (8) Hut Stricklin, Calera, Ala., Ford, 395
18. (4) Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., Ford, 395
19. (30) Mike Skinner, Susanville, Calif., Chevrolet, 394
20. (7) Joe Nemechek, Lakeland, Fla., Chevrolet, 394
21. (28) Steve Grissom, Gadsden, Ala., Chevrolet, 394
22. (27) Ward Burton, South Boston, Va., Pontiac, 393
23. (24) Jeremy Mayfield, Owensboro, Ky., Ford, 393
24. (40) Ted Musgrave, Franklin, Wis., Ford, 393
25. (11) David Green, Owensboro, Ky., Chevrolet, 393
26. (17) Brett Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Ford, 393
27. (21) Sterling Marlin, Columbia, Tenn., Chevrolet, 393
28. (29) Johnny Benson, Grand Rapids, Mich., Pontiac, 392
29. (12) Chad Little, Spokane, Wash., Pontiac, 392
30. (38) Derrike Cope, Spanaway, Wash., Pontiac, 392
31. (15) Morgan Shepherd, Conover, N.C., Pontiac, 392
32. (41) Darrell Waltrip, Franklin, Tenn., Chevrolet, 391
33. (35) Robby Gordon, Cerritos, Calif., Chevrolet, 389
34. (37) Dave Marcis, Wausau, Wis., Chevrolet, 388
35. (26) Gary Bradberry, Chelsea, Ala., Ford, 384
36. (18) Jimmy Spencer, Berwick, Pa., Ford, 384
37. (36) Terry Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas, Chevrolet, 382
38. (19) Kenny Wallace, St. Louis, Mo., Ford, 363
39. (32) Robert Pressley, Asheville, N.C., Ford, 230, drive shaft
40. (42) Jeff Green, Whitehouse, Tenn., Chevrolet, 166, steering
41. (10) Ricky Craven, Newburgh, Maine, Chevrolet, 109, engine failure
42. (20) Michael Waltrip, Owensboro, Ky., Ford, 86, crash

Terry Callahan -- The Auto Channel