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The Callahan Report: Patience Equals Victory for Jarrett

5 October 1997

CHARLOTTE, NC: Fords have dominated the 1997 NASCAR season. Their dominance continued today at the UAW GM 500 at Charlotte. Dale Jarrett, driving the Quality Care Ford Thunderbird, made it race victory number seventeen for Ford. It was Jarrett's sixth win of the season.

[ Dale Jarrett
]Dale Jarrett

Jarrett won the race with his usual patience, smoothness, and persistence. He qualified well and stayed near the front all day. Staying near the front was the smooth part. His patience showed as early leader Bobby Labonte left everyone behind as if they were parked on the twenty-four degree banking. Jarrett didn't panic. His car got better....Labonte had some bad luck plus his car got worse. By the end of the race, Jarrett was able to run with Labonte. Jarrett made his final move with 58 laps remaining. Labonte was unable to catch Jarrett's streaking red, white, and blue racer.

Jarrett said after the victory, "We had a great car. Todd (crew chief Todd Parrott) and I sat up pretty late last night in my motorhome and we made some changes to the car this morning." He continued, " But I wasn't confident until there were about five laps to go. Bobby ran so good on fresh tires I thought he would run me down. But it turned out good for us. The last set of tires we had on the car were the best we had all day."

Bobby Labonte's luck was a mixed bag of good and bad. His good luck was when he hit the setup exactly right for the start of the race. He was so dominant, the race was a real "yawner" until the first caution waved. With the exception of the top ten, Bobby Labonte had lapped the field. Things changed quickly. Cars began spinning and crashing in turn two. Enter Labonte's bad luck....he was one of the spinning cars. Add a dash of good luck...he didn't hit anything. Labonte limped to the pits for new tires without losing a lap. During the next sequence, Labonte was strong, but nothing like his earlier dominance. His last set of tires (as luck would have it) were his worst. He developed a loose condition, allowing Jarrett to pass for the lead and the eventual win.

[ Bobby Labonte
]Bobby Labonte

Labonte commented, "I knew there had been a wreck but I didn't know about the oil. Then I saw the wreck and the oil. I locked up the brakes, held my breath, put my head down and turned right. I didn't hit anything. I got a couple of flat tires but it didn't hurt anything."

On a restart at the mid race point, it looked like an all star show. The fans responded to the on track action. As the green flag waved, the front pack included Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Ernie Irvan, and Rusty Wallace (Irvan and Wallace were a lap down). Jarrett and Earnhardt went head to head. The crowd erupted as Earnhardt pulled ahead of Jarrett. The all star crew swapped positions for the next twenty laps. Jarrett, Martin, and Gordon finally pulled away.

[ Dale Earnhardt
]Dale Earnhardt

In an effort to make competition equal, NASCAR allowed Chevy teams to add to the height of their rear spoiler. Car owner Richard Childress campaigned hard for the change pointing out that only one Chevy team had visited victory lane in '97 (Jeff Gordon, ten victories). The rule change had little or no effect on the outcome of the Charlotte race. Childress' Chevy, driven by Earnhardt, finished third. Earnhardt finished second in the last two races before the rule change. The top five had an even placement of Fords (2), Chevys (2) and Pontiac (1).

Jeff Gordon showed why he is the Winston Cup points leader. Gordon was assessed a stop and go penalty for speeding in the pits. Gordon lost a lap but didn't lose his cool. Gordon was able to beat the leaders back to the line during the crash that caused Labonte to spin. Gordon stayed in the hunt, finishing in fifth place.

Mark Matin gained a little ground on Gordon in the points race. His race result was one position better than Gordon's. Martin also led the race (five bonus points). Martin trails Gordon by 125 points with five races remaining in the 1997 Winston Cup season.

Results with finishing position, (starting position), driver, hometown/state, car, laps completed.

1. (5) Dale Jarrett, Hickory, N.C., Ford, 334
2. (2) Bobby Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas, Pontiac, 334
3. (19) Dale Earnhardt, Kannapolis, N.C., Chevrolet, 334
4. (3) Mark Martin, Batesville, Ark., Ford, 334
5. (4) Jeff Gordon, Pittsboro, Ind., Chevrolet, 334
6. (29) Jeff Burton, South Boston, Va., Ford, 334
7. (33) Bill Elliott, Dawsonville, Ga., Ford, 333
8. (7) Ward Burton, South Boston, Va., Pontiac, 333
9. (40) Kyle Petty, Randleman, N.C., Pontiac, 333
10. (15) Johnny Benson, Grand Rapids, Mich., Pontiac, 333
11. (43) Terry Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas, Chevrolet, 333
12. (25) Rusty Wallace, St. Louis, Ford, 332
13. (17) Steve Grissom, Gadsden, Ala., Chevrolet, 332
14. (6) Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., Ford, 332
15. (11) Ken Schrader, Fenton, Mo., Chevrolet, 332
16. (24) Joe Nemechek, Lakeland, Fla., Chevrolet, 331
17. (14) Ted Musgrave, Franklin, Wis., Ford, 331
18. (35) Ernie Irvan, Salinas, Calif., Ford, 331
19. (34) Rick Wilson, Bartow, Fla., Ford, 331
20. (21) Sterling Marlin, Columbia, Tenn., Chevrolet, 331
21. (41) Bobby Hamilton, Nashville, Tenn., Pontiac, 331
22. (10) Morgan Shepherd, Conover, N.C., Pontiac, 331
23. (31) Chad Little, Spokane, Wash., Pontiac, 331
24. (30) Michael Waltrip, Owensboro, Ky., Ford, 330
25. (42) Ricky Craven, Newburgh, Maine, Chevrolet, 330
26. (36) Todd Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Pontiac, 330
27. (39) Jeremy Mayfield, Owensboro, Ky., Ford, 330
28. (26) Kenny Wallace, St. Louis, Ford, 330
29. (20) Jeff Green, Whitehouse, Tenn., Chevrolet, 328
30. (18) Brett Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Ford, 328
31. (27) David Green, Owensboro, Ky., Chevrolet, 313
32. (23) John Andretti, Indianapolis, Ford, 300
33. (13) Derrike Cope, Spanaway, Wash., Pontiac, 291
34. (38) Gary Bradberry, Chelsea, Ala., Ford, 263
35. (37) Hut Stricklin, Calera, Ala., Ford, 247
36. (28) Robert Pressley, Asheville, N.C., Ford, 247
37. (16) Wally Dallenbach, Basalt, Colo., Chevrolet, 244
38. (32) Lake Speed, Jackson, Miss., Ford, 165
39. (8) Jeff Purvis, Clarksville, Tenn., Chevrolet, 150
40. (12) Kevin Lepage, Shelburne, Vt., Chevrolet, 119
41. (22) Ricky Rudd, Chesapeake, Va., Ford, 102
42. (9) Jimmy Spencer, Berwick, Pa., Ford, 101
43. (1) Geoff Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Ford, 100

Point standings: J.Gordon 4,258; Martin 4,133; Jarrett 4,061; J.Burton 3,920; Earnhardt 3,713; T.Labonte 3,611; B.Labonte 3,512; Musgrave 3,192; Mayfield 3,132; Benson 3,129; Rudd 3,119; R.Wallace 3,103; Schrader 3,075; Irvan 3,054.

Terry Callahan -- The Auto Channel