SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- There wasn't anything subtle about Dale Jarrett's performance Saturday at the Brickyard 400. And thanks to a late caution, there wasn't any drama.
A yellow flag for Dave Marcis' blown engine with 18 laps to go allowed every team on the lead lap to get a couple extra gallons of gas, and that allowed Jarrett to maintain his dominance in the lop-sided stock car race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Jarrett brought the same car back to the 2.5-mile oval that ran out of gas a year ago while trying to stretch a gas run to 43 laps -- 107.5 miles. Without the late caution this year, Jarrett's Quality Care Ford Taurus would have had to cover the final 43 laps on a single tank of gas.
"What an incredible race car," Jarrett said after beating second-place Bobby Labonte by 3.351 seconds -- about 250 yards. "What a great team. You saw it. You know it.
"The engine was something else. I was conserving some fuel. (The caution) certainly made things a little easier on me. There wasn't any sense to take a chance on it. When the caution came out, I actually was upset because we had such a big lead (of nearly seven seconds). But after the stop, the car was absolutely perfect. It just took off. It was better than it had been all day."
The preview of Jarrett's overpowering performance actually came a year ago when his car ran out of gas while leading and fell four laps behind. He erased the deficit by pitting out of sequence and by having the fastest car in the final 200 miles, but all that work only resulted in a 16th-place finish.
"A year ago, I rode out of this place and I felt like the lowest guy on the earth," said crew chief Todd Parrott. "I ran my driver out of gas. This makes up for it."
Jarrett, who stretched his NASCAR Winston Cup Series points lead over Mark Martin to 274 points, led a race-record 117 of 160 laps, including the final 43 and 81 of the last 82. He averaged 148.228 mph.
Jarrett's team tested at Indianapolis two weeks ago, and they focused on stretching their gas runs. Jarrett had a light mounted to his dashboard that was supposed to light when he only had two laps worth of gas remaining.
"We had a light like that last year, too," Jarrett said. "It turned on after I ran out. Even I could figure that out."
This time, Jarrett made sure his fuel light wasn't an issue down the stretch.
The only two cars on the lead lap that could have gone the distance without a stop were Labonte and rookie Tony Stewart. Their plans to win on fuel mileage, however, was mute when Marcis' Chevrolet spewed oil and water down the backstretch.
"We had a top-five car all day," Labonte said after posting his third consecutive top-three finish at Indianapolis. "The car was probably better than I was. (Jarrett) was really smooth. He never spun his tires. We were good. We just finished second. He had the whole package today. Everything went his way."
Pole-sitter Jeff Gordon rallied in the final five laps to finish third, followed by Martin in fourth, Jeff Burton in fifth, Ward Burton in sixth, Stewart in seventh, Rusty Wallace in eighth, Ricky Rudd in ninth and Dale Earnhardt in 10th.
Everyone who chased Jarrett left the Brickyard impressed with his ability to dominate a race.
"He was in a league of his own," Gordon said. "We had a lot of trouble getting the car hooked up to the race track. We just didn't have anything for the 88 car (Jarrett)."
Said Martin: "There were two or three of them we couldn't out-run -- one in particular, the 88. We dug in this weekend and held our ground."
The victory was Jarrett's fourth of the year, and it closely mirrored the blowout he enjoyed June 13 at the Michigan Speedway went he led the final 150 laps of the 200-lap race. Oddly enough, the same car that was splashed with champagne at Indianapolis was the car Jarrett drove to victory at Michigan.
"And you can bet that same car's going back to Michigan," Parrott said of the series' return trip to the Irish Hills on Aug. 22.
Unless the team runs out of gas getting there.
|Winners of the NASCAR Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway:|
1994 -- Jeff Gordon
1995 -- Dale Earnhardt
1996 -- Dale Jarrett
1997 -- Ricky Rudd
1998 -- Jeff Gordon
1999 -- Dale Jarrett