Originally created 07/14/97

Jeff Burton wins Jiffy Lube 300



LOUDON, N.H. (AP) - Jeff Burton had little trouble outracing everyone on the track in the Jiffy Lube 300, but he had to win one late race in the pits to clinch the victory Sunday.

Holding a healthy lead, he needed only a splash of gas in the final laps to win the race at New Hampshire International Speedway, and he and other cars pulled into the pits on the 285th. But as he pulled out of his stall, runnerup Dale Earnhardt was pulling in and had to swerve to avoid hitting Burton. The near miss appeared to cost Earnhardt time.

"Somebody came in, somebody came out looking for the same spot. Those kind of things are going to happen," Burton said. "In racing, that could have been a disaster."

But all's well that ends well, and Burton went on to beat Earnhardt by 5.4 seconds.

"I don't think it had any impact on the race whatsoever," Burton could say later.

Rusty Wallace finished third, Steve Grissom fourth and Mark Martin fifth.

Earnhardt, who started 26th, wished he could have pressured Burton more on the track.

"We were racing from behind all the time," Earnhardt said. "I wish I had a chance to race Burton today, but we didn't every really get it."

Burton had only one other close call, on the track early in the race when he said he was too aggressive and nearly collided with Sterling Marlin.

"I realized I had to settle down. I was running above my head," he said.

A calmer Burton took the lead on the 196th lap, and lost it only for six late laps when he took on gas. He won for the second time this year and the second time in his four years in the NASCAR Winston Cup series.

The victory also broke a tie with Earnhardt for fifth in the point standings.

Terry Labonte, who finished seventh, took over the lead from teammate Jeff Gordon, 2,497 to 2,494. Gordon, starting 29th, his lowest of the season, finished 23rd.

The race over the 1.058-mile oval had been mostly a contest between teammates Dale Jarrett and Ernie Irvan through 183 laps. Burton, who started 15th, had moved up to third by then. But Jarrett was slowed by a valve spring problem and Burton moved into second.

Irvan stayed in contention before dropping back in the final 40 laps.

Jarrett slumped to 38th and Irvan, the defending champion, finished eighth.

Irvan, Burton and Jarrett were running 1-2-3 when everyone took advantage of the second caution in the race on lap 193 for pit stops, and when they got the green again, Burton was in the lead. He stretched it to as much as seven seconds, and the only drama that remained was the final stop for enough gas to get home.

Burton's victory for the Jack Roush team kept alive Ford's streak this season of winning every race Gordon. Gordon driven his Chevrolet to victory seven times in 17 races.

Earnhardt started 26th, but by the 80th lap, he was eighth, and slowly moved up from there. One of the few exciting duals came when Irvan, running second, and Earnhardt, third, ran side-by-side for almost two laps two-thirds through the race before Irvan pulled ahead.

Earnhardt took over second on the 266th lap, lost it, then retook it for good on 291. But Burton was seven seconds ahead by then.