Originally created 07/23/01

Jarrett passes Rudd for victory

LOUDON, N.H. -- Dale Jarrett brushed aside a teammate for a victory Sunday, and a razor-thin chase for the Winston Cup title got even more interesting.

Passing teammate Ricky Rudd with 2 1/2 laps left in the New England 300, Jarrett took the lead, then held off Jeff Gordon to win for the first time since April.

It was a fitting way to start the second half of the season, as the top three drivers in the series fought it out in front all day.

When it was over, the unofficial points totals left Jarrett and Gordon the way they started - in a dead heat. Their 2,695 points were 28 more than Rudd, who was poised to win, but got burned by a late yellow flag.

The race was decided over the final five laps, on a single-file restart after Jerry Nadeau lost handling and got tapped into the wall by Jimmy Spencer on the curve between Turns 3 and 4.

It only took a lap around the flat, 1.058-mile track for Jarrett's Ford to catch Rudd, slip inside him, give him a little nudge, and pass him for the lead and his circuit-leading fourth victory of the year.

The one man who practically couldn't lose was Robert Yates, who owns the cars Jarrett and Rudd drive.

"It's pretty tough to cheer when both guys are racing," Yates said. "I just want them both to be careful, and whoever's the fastest ..."

Jarrett celebrated by taking his customary backward lap around the track. He dedicated the victory to Adam Petty and his former teammate, Kenny Irwin, the two drivers who died last year at New Hampshire International Speedway.

"This goes to two special young men who made their mark on this sport, but would have made it better if they could have stayed around longer," Jarrett said. "We remember the good things they did, and how they touched our hearts."

In response to the deaths, NASCAR mandated restrictor plates for the last race here - last September - and Jeff Burton led all 300 laps in what was largely considered one of the dullest NASCAR races ever.

The restrictor plates were off this time, but a thin, new layer of asphalt made the track very tricky, as drivers struggled to find an outside passing lane. What resulted was another less-than-thrilling race - the main excitement coming when Jarrett made the late pass on his teammate.

"I think he sees me as just another racecar on the track with 10 laps to go, and the feeling is obliged," Rudd said. "If he didn't drive that hard to win races, he probably wouldn't be on Robert Yates Racing. He did what he needed to do. He raced as hard as he needed to. We did, too. There are no hard feelings."

Gordon labeled this a disappointment, appropriate considering the way he dominated the first part of the race.

He led 126 of the first 127 laps and held a 5-second margin over Jarrett, before the fourth of 10 yellow flags came out when Dave Blaney hit the wall near Turn 1.

Gordon never led again, and despite bouncing back from 37th and 17th-place finishes the last two weeks, he felt empty.

"I'm not as happy about a second-place finish as I normally would be," he said. "Last week, second would've been really good. This week, second was not something we found real gratifying."

Nor did any of the drivers find this track a pleasure to drive on.

"I don't enjoy running single-file, follow-the-leader, then watching someone pass me on it at the end," Rudd said. "On the other hand, everything was equal. It was the same environment for all 43 competitors"

Jarrett won with an average speed of 102.131 mph, and his margin of victory was 0.659 seconds.

Spencer finished fourth and Tony Stewart fifth. Coming off a victory Saturday night in a Busch Series race, Kevin Harvick finished eighth, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Kyle Petty, returning to the track for the first time since his son's death last May, was never a factor, and finished 26th.


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