Originally created 02/14/98

Rain helps Gordon to IROC win



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- One of the keys to winning in the International Race of Champions is being in the right place at the right time.

That worked for Jeff Gordon on Friday at Daytona as he won a rain-shortened IROC race.

"This is not the way I like to win one but I'll take it any way I can get it in this series," Gordon said after rain washed out the final 10 laps of the scheduled 40.

Winston Cup drivers captured the first four positions and six of the top seven. Jeff Burton finished second followed by Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, open-wheel racing's Arie Luyendyk, Dale Jarrett and Terry Labonte.

Though it wasn't a hard rain, officials sat through a one-hour delay before calling off the rest of the event with more rain forecast.

It was the first race shortened by rain in the 22-year history of the IROC series.

The rain took Gordon and the other drivers by surprise. Under IROC rules, the only communication during a race is one-way from IROC officials.

"They don't tell you anything you don't necessarily need to know," Gordon said. "The first time I heard about rain was when it hit on my windshield."

It was a brilliant show until the rain. Driving identically prepared Pontiac Firebirds, the 12 drivers spent most of the race side by side or nose to tail.

Five drivers led in the first five laps. Twice in the first 10 laps a driver crossed the start-finish line in first and before he had completed a lap had fallen to last.

"When we got out of the cars during the red flag (stopping action), we were all saying, `It's crazy out there,' " Gordon said.

Gordon didn't lead until the 29th lap. After running near the front early, he slipped toward the back, then worked his way forward.

Jimmy Vasser brought out a caution when he spun on the back straight before Lap 29. On the restart Gordon received drafting help from Burton and moved past leader Martin on the back straight. Martin had led for 17 laps.

One lap later, the drivers hit rain as they raced into the first turn and the race was over.

"I knew if I didn't make a move, I'd get shuffled to the back again," Gordon said.

The IROC series hasn't been productive for Gordon. This is his fourth year in the all-star series but until Friday he had never won an IROC race. His best finish had been second place at Darlington in 1995.

It was a nice change of fortune for Gordon, whose Speed Weeks performance has been frustrating.

Gordon led the Bud Shootout on Sunday until the final lap, then had a bad restart, then broke his transmission. He led one of the 125-mile qualifying races Thursday, but his decision to make a pit stop during a caution flag backfired and left him back in the pack.

IROC Results

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Results of the first round of the True Value Firebird International Race of Champions Series on Friday at Daytona International Speedway, with starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown or country, regular series, laps completed, reason out if any, and series points (all drivers in identically prepared Pontiac Firebirds; scheduled 40-lap, 100-mile race shortened to 30 laps, 75 miles by rain):

1. (6) Jeff Gordon, Pittsboro, Ind., NASCAR Winston Cup, 30, 21.

2. (4) Jeff Burton, South Boston, Va., NASCAR Winston Cup, 30, 20.

3. (10) Mark Martin, Batesville, Ark., NASCAR Winston Cup, 30, 19.

4. (5) Dale Earnhardt, Kannapolis, N.C., NASCAR Winston Cup, 30, 12.

5. (9) Arie Luyendyk, the Netherlands, Indy Racing League, 30, 10.

6. (2) Dale Jarrett, Hickory, N.C., NASCAR Winston Cup, 30, 9.

7. (7) Terry Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas, NASCAR Winston Cup, 30, 8.

8. (12) Al Unser Jr., Albuquerque, N.M., CART Indy-car, 30, 7.

9. (1) Tony Stewart, Rushville, Ind., Indy Racing League, 30, 6.

10. (3) Jimmy Vasser, Las Vegas, Nev., CART Indy-car, 30, 5.

11. (11) Randy LaJoie, Norwalk, Conn., NASCAR Busch Series, 29, 4.

12. (10) Tom Kendall, La Canada, Calif., SCCA Trans-Am, 11, crash, 5.

Race StatisticsTime of race: 25:08.

Margin of victory: 0.087-seconds.

Caution flags: None (yellow flag laps don't count).

Winner's average speed: 179.045 mph.

Lead changes: 10 among 7 drivers.

Bonus points for top lap leaders: Martin 5; Burton 3; Kendall 2.

Lap leaders: Jarrett 1; Burton 2; Labonte 3; Earnhardt 4; Burton 5-6; Earnhardt 7; Burton 8; LaJoie 9-11; Martin 12-28; Gordon 29-30.

Total IROC purse of $760,000 paid out by points at end of four-race series.

Daytona 500 Lineup

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Lineup for Sunday's Daytona 500 NASCAR stock car race at Daytona International Speedway, with car number in parentheses, driver, hometown and make of car (positions 3-30 determined by finishing position in 125-mile qualifying races; rest of lineup set by qualifying speeds in mph or car-owner provisional points):

1. (18) Bobby Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas, Pontiac, 192.415.

2. (5) Terry Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas, Chevrolet, 192.127.

3. (4) Sterling Marlin, Columbia, Tenn., Chevrolet.

4. (3) Dale Earnhardt, Kannapolis, N.C., Chevrolet.

5. (88) Dale Jarrett, Hickory, N.C., Ford.

6. (21) Michael Waltrip, Owensboro, Ky., Ford.

7. (23) Jimmy Spencer, Berwick, Pa., Ford.

8. (31) Mike Skinner, Susanville, Calif., Chevrolet.

9. (22) Ward Burton, South Boston, Va., Pontiac.

10. (36) Ernie Irvan, Salinas, Calif., Pontiac.

11. (30) Derrike Cope, Spanaway, Wash., Pontiac.

12. (2) Rusty Wallace, St. Louis, Ford.

13. (12) Jeremy Mayfield, Owensboro, Ky., Ford.

14. (99) Jeff Burton, South Boston, Va., Ford.

15. (6) Mark Martin, Batesville, Ark., Ford.

16. (9) Lake Speed, Jackson, Miss., Ford.

17. (43) John Andretti, Indianapolis, Ford.

18. (95) Andy Hillenburg, Harrisburg, N.C., Chevrolet.

19. (94) Bill Elliott, Dawsonville, Ga., Ford.

20. (91) Kevin LePage, Shelbourne, Vt., Chevrolet.

21. (97) Chad Little, Spokane, Wash., Ford.

22. (4) Bobby Hamilton, Nashville, Tenn., Chevrolet.

23. (72) Mike Wallace, St. Louis, Chevrolet.

24. (98) Greg Sacks, Mattituck, N.Y., Ford.

25. (7) Geoff Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Ford.

26. (13) Jerry Nadeau, Danbury, Conn., Ford.

27. (75) Rick Mast, Rockbridge Baths, Va., Ford.

28. (42) Joe Nemechek, Lakeland, Fla., Chevrolet.

29. (24) Jeff Gordon, Pittsboro, Ind., Chevrolet.

30. (77) Robert Pressley, Asheboro, N.C., Ford.

31. (33) Ken Schrader, Fenton, Mo., Chevrolet, 191.787.

32. (50) Ricky Craven, Newburgh, Maine, Chevrolet, 189.557.

33. (1) Steve Park, East Northport, N.Y., Chevrolet, 189.498.

34. (90) Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., Ford, 189.490.

35. (71) Dave Marcis, Wausau, Wis., Chevrolet, 189.410.

36. (47) Billy Standridge, Shelby, N.C., Ford, 189.290.

37. (16) Ted Musgrave, Franklin, Wis., Ford, provisional.

38. (28) Kenny Irwin Jr., Indianapolis, Ford, provisional.

39. (44) Kyle Petty, Randleman, N.C., Pontiac, provisional.

40. (10) Ricky Rudd, Chesapeake, Va., Ford, provisional.

41. (41) Steve Grissom, Gadsden, Ala., Chevrolet, provisional.

42. (11) Brett Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Ford, provisional.

43. (17) Darrell Waltrip, Owensboro, Ky., Chevrolet, provisional.