DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Dick Trickle held off hard-charging Dale Earnhardt Jr. by about three inches Saturday in the Dura Lube 200, winning for only the second time in his NASCAR Busch Grand National career.
Trickle, a 56-year-old journeyman who will be seeking his first Winston Cup victory Sunday in the Southern 500, had finished third in his last four Busch starts at Darlington Raceway. The final four laps of the race were run under caution after debris blocked the track.
"I knew we were hurting at the end," Trickle said. "But after third, third, third, third, the only places to go were second and first."
Earnhardt, the series points leader, charged from off the pace in the closing laps, the beneficiary of his own decision to take tires when the leaders declined to stop under caution with 15 of 147 laps remaining.
"We made several great calls today," said Earnhardt, who started 34th. "But taking tires was definitely the way to go."
Despite coming up short after diving to the low side exiting the fourth turn on the 1.366-mile oval, Earnhardt convinced Trickle that fresh tires were an asset.
"We knew everybody from fifth on back had taken tires," Trickle said. "We needed every inch we could get, and we didn't have many."
The 23-year-old Earnhardt, whose father will go for a record-tying 10th Darlington victory in the Winston Cup race, was delighted to add to his points lead.
"We didn't expect anything better than a 10th-place finish today," he said after barely losing the battle of Chevrolets.
Chevys took the first six positions, with polesitter Mike McLaughlin third. He was followed by Kevin Lepage, Todd Bodine and Matt Kenseth. Dale Jarrett, who has the pole Sunday as he attempts a sweep of Darlington's two Winston Cup events this year, was seventh in a Ford.
Another Winston cup star, Mark Martin, who dominated the first three-quarters of the race but fell back late, was eighth in a Ford. He was the final car on the lead lap.
Trickle led only the final 24 laps, averaging 123.233 mph in a race slowed four times by 19 laps of caution. There were six lead changes among four drivers.
Shortly after the race, Trickle hit the third-turn wall with his Winston Cup car. He was not injured, but was forced into a backup car and will have to go from 19th on the grid to the end of the field.
Earnhardt now leads in the standings by 115 points over Kenseth, who came in trailing by 95. McLaughlin, who led the most laps with 66, is 170 points back with six of 31 races remaining on the schedule.
Martin's Winston Cup teammate, defending Dura Lube 200 champion Jeff Burton, did not compete because of the flu. He was replaced by another Roush Racing Winston Cup driver, Chad Little, who wound up 30th in a field of 43.