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Jarrett Wins Brickyard 400

Dale Jarrett and his crew were both near perfect this time.

A miscalculation by the Robert Yates Racing crew ran Jarrett out of gas while leading last year's Brickyard 400. On Saturday, a late-race gamble by crew chief Todd Parrott to change only two tires turned a tough battle into a runaway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"It's the same race car," the Winston Cup points leader said. "It handled with two tires better than it did with four all day. It was just something to drive."

Jarrett's No. 88 Ford Taurus pulled away from runner-up Bobby Labonte in the final laps, crossing the finish line 3.351-seconds, about half a straightaway, ahead of Labonte's Pontiac.

The son of two-time series champion Ned Jarrett earned his fourth victory of the year, tying him for the season lead with Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton, and the 21st of his career.

Jarrett, who won here in 1996 after leading just 11 laps, dominated this time, leading 116 of the 160 laps on the historic 2½-mile oval. He joined Gordon as the only two-time winners in the event that has become one of NASCAR's classic races in just six years.

The winner averaged 148.228 mph in the race slowed by only three caution flags for a total of 12 laps.

The last caution came out on lap 142 when Dave Marcis blew his engine. Jarrett was leading Mark Martin at that point and, unlike Martin, Gordon and several other drivers, was confident of getting to the finish without another gas stop.

"When that caution came out I was a little upset about that," Jarrett said. "I wasn't sure what two tires would do because we hadn't done that here. But once I got out front, it just took off and went. That was some of the fastest laps I did all day."

The only problem Jarrett had on Saturday came on lap 19 when he brushed the wall in turn two while trailing pole-winner Gordon.

"That came from not paying good enough attention on my part. I looked up to see what was going on around me and I just hit the wall. I know I didn't hit it that hard. I usually do that here every race, so it wasn't any big deal."

It was a popular victory with the usual sellout crowd of about 320,000. But they also cheered loudly for Gordon, who spent his teen years just down the road in Pittsboro, Ind., as he charged from seventh to third following the final pit stops.

Ray Evernham, Gordon's crew chief, also took a gamble on that stop, taking the time to change all four tires and costing the team track position. But Gordon had no thoughts about trying the two-tire gambit that has won him races in the past.

"Heck, no, I didn't want two tires," Gordon said. "Ray called for four and I just called `Hallelujah!' We just didn't have enough laps to get it done after that."

Gordon said Jarrett was the class of the field all day.

"He was this dominant last year at this track and he raout of gas. I think they made sure they didn't run out of gas this year and they just killed everybody."

Labonte came out second following the last stop, passing both Martin and Burton in the pits. But he could never get close to a run at Jarrett.

"I'd trade a Pocono win to Dale Jarrett for one of these in a heartbeat," said Labonte, who swept both races at the Pennsylvania track earlier this season.

Martin wound up fourth, followed by Jeff Burton and his brother Ward, rookie Tony Stewart and former Brickyard winners Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt.

The first caution flag of the afternoon flew on lap 43 when Geoffrey Bodine and Chad Little bumped in turn two, sending Little's car spinning hard into the wall as Bodine continued.

"Bodine bumped me once in turn one and then again in turn two," Little said. "You can't be bumping people on this flat track at these speeds. That was a brain-dead maneuver on his part."

Kyle Petty also was knocked out of the race in a scary crash on lap 73 when he ran over a piece of debris, cut his right-front tire and hurtled into the turn two wall at about 180 mph.

The car caught on fire and Petty scrambled to get out of the smoke. He sat down, then laid down on the asphalt track near the wall. But the third-generation NASCAR racer was not injured.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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