ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - Moments after Dale Jarrett and Kurt Busch exchanged the lead four times in the final 11 laps of Sunday's Subway 400 at North Carolina Speedway, Busch couldn't help but brag a little.
"That was good racing," he said. "If the fans didn't dig that, they need help."
Jarrett won the battle of tire wear and strategy in a compelling finish before a surprisingly smallish crowd of about 50,000. The finish came one week after there was only one pass under green-flag conditions in the Daytona 500, and it seemed to pump some much-needed life into a sport that had become too concerned with body styles and aerodynamics.
Sunday's race was about the drivers.
"They had to enjoy the racing," Jarrett said. "We gave them some of that. From a driver's standpoint, you've got to love it. They talk about repaving this place and I can tell you, drivers don't want a one-groove race track. This place is hard to get hold of, but it lends itself to a lot of racing and a driver has to do his part. A driver gets a lot of satisfaction when you do well here."
Both Jarrett and Busch used lapped traffic to their advantage in every one of the passes for the lead.
Jarrett took the lead with a pass that took nearly two laps to complete by trapping Busch behind Jeff Gordon's lapped car. Busch, a 24-year-old who won three of the last five races a year ago, came back with a daring three-wide pass with the help of his Roush Racing teammate Jeff Burton with five laps remaining.
A lap later, Jarrett used his front bumper to give Busch a little push in the fourth turn, and that allowed him to make the final pass of the race. From there, he led the last four laps to earn $167,050.
Matt Kenseth wound up third, followed by Ricky Craven in fourth, Jamie McMurray in fifth, Rusty Wallace, who led 182 of the first 255 laps, was sixth, Mark Martin was seventh, Jimmie Johnson finished eighth, Elliott Sadler ninth and Dave Blaney was 10th.
Johnson drove the only Chevrolet Monte Carlo among the top 14 finishers.
"Aero-wise, we haven't seen enough," Jarrett said. "This is a handling track. It takes a team effort. You have to have a good setup underneath you and you have to have good pit stops. We'll see a little more about the new templates next week at Las Vegas and even more the week after that at Atlanta.
"Like I said, this track is about your setup and saving your tires."
Jarrett averaged 117.852 mph. His margin of victory was about 30 yards.
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.