Formula One
 Tuesday, March 21
Burton finally back in Victory Lane
Associated Press

  • Simply put, he was due. Due not only to win his second career Winston Cup race, but also due for some good fortune. Burton once again had a car capable of winning, but he's had those and lost races before. This time, however, there wasn't a little brother in the way, or a lug nut waiting to get stuck during the No. 22 team's final pit stop. Burton drove a strong and steady race, leading early, often, at the halfway mark and at the end.
    It's a recurring theme, but Darlington's new single pit road played a role in why some late contenders weren't a threat at the end. It wasn't so much what happened on pit road, but rather what happened off Turn 3 getting into pit road. Bobby Labonte missed the entrance and wound up blowing out his right front tire, which shredded his fender and dropped him to 13th at the finish. Rookie Matt Kenseth was running fourth when he missed pit road on his final pit stop. He recovered, however, to post a sixth-place finish.
  • No changes at the top, but things tightened up a bit heading into Bristol, Tenn., next weekend. Burton moved up to fourth, while DJ is back in the top five.
    1. Bobby Labonte, 794
    2. Mark Martin, 785
    3. Dale Earnhardt, 762
    4. Ward Burton, 733
    5. Dale Jarrett, 721
  • Kenseth overtook Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the rookie of the year battle with his sixth-place finish. Little E complained of a "loose" car all afternoon and his back-end finally got away from him on Turn 2 of lap 202, sending him hard into the inside restraining wall and ultimately to a 40th-place finish. Jeff Fuller also tasted the Darlington wall and finished 36th, while Dave Blaney (26th) and Stacy Compton (29th) had uneventful runs.
  • The Lady in Black was in a bad mood early Sunday, as nine cars were involved in three incidents during the first 15 laps. Things settled down over the next 270 laps, as only two more yellow flags came out. But the damage was done early.
  • This week's winner is Joe Nemechek, who saw his chances of winning end on lap 3 when he was involved in the first of three incidents over the first 15 laps. Kenny Irwin and Jerry Nadeau also get our sympathies.
  • For the first time in five races this season, Jeff Gordon finished on the lead lap. The pole-sitter wound up 8th after leading the first 14 laps and eight more early on.
  • Tony Stewart, who finished fourth, is building a new home. One of his rooms will be dedicated to his many trophies. Stewart, however, hopes to also fill the room with helmets of his fellow competitors. The first helmet added to his weekly collection was that of Dale Earnahrdt, who gave Stewart one of his trademark lids this weekend
  • Results

    DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Take that, Jeff. There's another Burton who can drive at Darlington.

    Ward Burton, second to his younger brother Jeff three times in 1999, grabbed the spotlight himself Sunday, cruising to a win at the 500.

    Ward also kept the Burton's winning streak alive at Darlington Raceway. Jeff swept both events here a year ago.

    Ward, who started second behind Jeff Gordon, took the lead from Matt Kenseth with 36 laps to go and was barely pressured the rest of the way. It was his second career Winston Cup victory, the other coming in Rockingham, N.C., in October of 1995.

    In between, Burton lived every older brother's nightmare -- watching Jeff's Roush Racing team rise to the top of the sport.

    "You got a younger brother?," the 38-year-old Ward asked rhetorically this past September after again falling short to his 32-year-old brother. "Then you know how it feels."

    How does it feel now?

    "It feels damn good," said Ward, who won $132,725.

    Jeff came to congratulate his older brother, and Ward got on the phone with his parents, who no longer have to tiptoe around Jeff's victories during family gatherings in South Boston, Va.

    "I think everyone was relieved a little bit," Ward said.

    Ward there wasn't a Burton secret to the 50-year-old superspeedway.

    "I think it's more that we both have brought some pretty good cars and teams to this place," he said.

    "Plus, it didn't rain," said Ward's car owner, Bill Davis.

    Both Jeff's victories here were rain-shorted runs.

    And while it meant a lot to outrun Jeff, "it was that we beat 40 other teams out there. We came out and beat Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin," Ward said. "We beat those racers because we had a car that was better today."

    It was the first time a Pontiac won at Darlington since Joe Weatherly took the Rebel 300 in 1963 and only the third time in 94 races that the manufacturer can claim a Darlington victory.

    Everything went right for Ward in this one. He moved to the front for the first time on lap 15, passing Gordon. He returned to the front three other times and gradually stretched out to a 2-second lead over Dale Jarrett with 30 laps remaining.

    When Ward dived into the pits with 40 laps to go and Jarrett right on his tail, his crew zipped him out a good half-second before the Winston Cup champion.

    "These guys work so hard, they're just the best on pit road," Davis said.

    The win ended a 131-race winless streak for Davis' team.

    "It was privilege to ride in that car. It was awesome," Burton said.

    He led 188 of the 293 laps and finished with an average speed of 128.076 mph. Burton became the fifth different winner in five races this season.

    Burton crossed the line 1.4 seconds ahead of Jarrett. Dale Earnhardt, a winner last week in Hampton, Ga., was third in a Chevrolet. Tony Stewart finished fourth in a Pontiac, just ahead of Jeff Burton, who talked like a proud brother.

    "Man, when two members from the same family can win races in Winston Cup, that means an awful lot," Jeff said. "I just feel so good for Ward and those guys."

    Jarrett said Ward Burton had the best car most of the race.

    "It looked like when the sun was out, we were just as good," said Jarrett, who started 17th. "But he was definitely stronger."

    It looked like a group of nervous drivers early on worrying if the cloudy skies would rain-delay a third straight Darlington event.

    Ken Schrader, Terry Labonte and Joe Nemechek tangled on the first lap and, after a five-lap caution, Kenny Irwin spun out and collected Jeremy Mayfield and Jerry Nadeau.

    In all, 15 of the first 22 laps were slowed by caution.

    "People just aren't using their heads today," Nemechek said.

    When the racers calmed down, the event was fairly clean. The hardest hit was taken by rookie Dale Earnhardt Jr., who lost traction coming out of turn 3 and tagged the inside retaining wall.

    Dale Jr. climbed out unharmed.

    Three-time series champion Gordon had hoped that his pole run Friday would signal a return to the top. He finished eighth, his best result of the year, but stretched his winless streak to 10 races heading to Bristol, Tenn., for the Food City 500 next Sunday.

    Earnhardt had his fourth top-10 finish in five races this season and had generated a lot of excitement after last week's victory by 2 feet over Bobby Labonte. So, he said his performance should have come as no surprise to anyone.

    "I don't know where anybody said I was going," Earnhardt said. "We're just doing what we have to do."

    The results left few to complain about the competition among manufacturers. There were five Fords, three Chevys and two Pontiacs in the top 10.

    Furr: A long time coming

    Notebook: Darlington's spring race future in doubt

     Ward Burton tames Darlington en route to the checkered flag.
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     Returning to Victory Lane has been a long time coming for Ward Burton.
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     Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashes the No. 8 Bud car.
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     The car felt good all weekend for Ward Burton.
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     Ward Burton had to battle his own emotions en route to victory.
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     Dale Jarrett complements Ward Burton on a great race.
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     Despite the tough competition, it was a good points day for Dale Earnhardt.
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     Tony Stewart and his crew surpassed their expectations.
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     Bobby Labonte blows a tire and his chance at victory.
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