The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

NASCAR Winston Cup Series Dura-Lube 500: Jarrett Wins

3 November 1997

PHOENIX, AZ -- Shortly after climbing from his Quality Care Ford Dale
Jarrett said, "Incredible race car." I don't think you'd find a person that
would argue with that as Jarrett came back from being nearly a lap down to
win the Dura-Lube 500K.

Jarrett picked up his seventh win of the season when he took the checkers
2.105 seconds ahead of Rusty Wallace. The drivers that rounded out the
top-five were, pole sitter - Bobby Hamilton, Ken Schrader and Dale

Jarrett started the day rolling off in the ninth position. A loose
condition kept the Quality Care Ford from picking up many spots in the
early going. Mark Martin, who came into the race second in the series
championship, had a horrible push in the Valvoline Ford that saw him
dropping backwards through the field at an alarming rate.

All this as the odds-on favorite Bobby Hamilton started to the check out on
the field with a clearly superior setup under the STP Pontiac.

The field got bunched up when the caution flew after Robert Pressley spun
out of turn four. The caution was a blessing for Martin as he was able to,
along with several others, dive to pit road for some much needed

Hamilton took the field back to green and after a several-lap dual with
Jimmy Spencer for the lead, he cranked up the STP Pontiac and took off -
again looking untouchable.

The field got scrambled when the field again took the caution after Jimmy
Spencer, moving backwards through the pack, met up with Dale Earnhardt. The
two spun out of turn four in a cloud of tire smoke but neither received
heavy damage and the field lucked out when they made it through the blocked
track without piling into each other.

The leaders dove to the pits during this caution while Sterling Marlin and
Jeff Burton, who had just stopped during the earlier caution, stayed out
and took over the top two spots.

It wasn't long after the green flew that Hamilton sailed on past for the
lead using the lapped car of Robert Pressley as a pique. Once past,
Hamilton took off and built up a 3.1-second lead over the field.

Green flag stops started on lap 105. Rusty Wallace, who had brought his
Martinsville car to do battle at Phoenix, had reeled in Hamilton and was
starting to work on him for the lead. Wallace got his chance to take the
lead when Hamilton bobbled coming out of turn two.

Jarrett, who had enough of wrestling with his car, headed down pit road for
service. Jarrett's two right tires were just being changed when the yellow
flag flew on lap 127 when Ward Burton hit the turn one wall. Jarrett was
trapped on pit road as the leaders took the yellow flag.

Rusty Wallace was the man with the quickest pit stop but he had seven cars
that were on the tail end of the lead lap lined up in front of him when the
green flew - Jarrett was the sixth car ahead of the Miller Ford of Wallace.

On the green, Jarrett took off looking for another caution so he could
close the gap to the leaders by a mile. The caution never came and Rusty
Wallace had found the handle on his Ford.

Jarrett starting working his way around the track and started working his
way towards Wallace. One after another the leaders fell by the wayside.
Jarrett, looking for a better handle, dropped to pit road for four fresh
tires and fuel on lap 217. Wallace, knowing that Jarrett's car would soon
be past him on fresh rubber, dove to the pits on lap 220. Even on fresh
rubber Wallace had nothing for the Quality Care Ford as it sailed on past
for the lead.

Jarrett looked to be in another class as he just drove away from Wallace -
all the while picking his way through lapped traffic.

All looked well for Jarrett but there would be one problem to think about
for him - fuel. It's hard to be making the kind of power it took to lap the
field and still hold any economy. Jarrett was looking at a 95-lap run.

With a comfortable cushion built up, fuel conservation became job one.
Jarrett, to save fuel, started to roll out of the gas early as he entered
the turns and getting on the gas later as he exited. The move actually was
bringing Jarrett better lap times.

Then, with ten laps to go, Jarrett really started saving his fuel and his
6- second lead shrunk to little more than two when the checkers fell.

"This is the first time I've ever raced this car," a somewhat shocked
Jarrett said from Phoenix International Raceway's victory lane. "It's a
Robert Yates in-house car that we built from the ground up. It was a little
loose at one point in the beginning. We decided to stop a few laps early
and, of course, the caution came out. That got us down. After the pit stop
the car was so awesome. Those last two sets of tires were just tremendous.
I was worried about fuel but the car was so good that it just let me take
it easy."

Jarrett pocketed $99,830 for the win.

The second place finisher, Rusty Wallace, wasn't disappointed with his
finish. Wallace remarked, "The first run was decent. Then we did some air
pressure work and that thing took off like a bullet. The motor was
excellent. The car handled great - the pit stops were good. We just had a
perfect day all day long. I can' really say anything except we just got

The points advantage that Gordon enjoyed when he rolled into Phoenix was
substantially cut into when a bad tire forced Gordon to make an unscheduled
pit stop on lap 273. Gordon hustled the DuPont Chevy in the closing laps
from 30th, where he rejoined the field after the stop, to a 17th place
finish. "I really don't know what happened," Gordon said after the race. "I
felt something starting to go away in the right front. It started
vibrating. I knew we couldn't make the last 50 laps. Sure enough, we get a
lap down and boom, something went in the front end. It could have been
worse. I could have hit the wall."

With the win, Jarrett passed Mark Martin, taking over the second spot as
the last race of the season looms in just two short weeks. Jarrett, now 77
points off the mark that Gordon holds, is looking forward to the challenge.
"We got a chance," said Jarrett. "That's all we ask for. We've raced 31
weeks now and we've got ourselves in a position that we can win (the
championship). What we've got to do is go down there and try to win the

The Dura-Lube 500K was completed in a record time of 2 hour 48 minutes 55
seconds and held an average speed of 110.824 miles per hour.

The next race will be the NAPA 500 to be run November 16th at Atlanta Motor
Speedway. The race will mark the last event for the 1997 Winston Cup series
and be the site where the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup series championship will
be determined.

Mike Snow -- The Auto Channel