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 Friday, November 24
Waltrip finishes 34th
 
 Associated Press

HAMPTON, Ga. -- In a changing of the guard, Jerry Nadeau won his first NASCAR Winston Cup race Monday at the NAPA 500 while Darrell Waltrip took the checkered flag for the final time.

Nadeau, whose Chevrolet Monte Carlo was clearly the strongest car on the track, pulled away from Dale Earnhardt after the final caution period ended with seven laps to go.

In his 103rd Winston Cup start, the 30-year-old Nadeau cruised to a 1.338-second victory, averaging 141.296 mph at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

He became the fourth first-time winner this season, tying the modern-era record set in 1988 and following Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Park in victory lane.

Also, Nadeau was the 14th different winner in the 34-race season, equaling the record set three times, most recently in 1991.

"I can't believe it," said Nadeau, who celebrated by scorching his tires in front of the main grandstand. "We had a tough year, but what a way to end the season. The car was flawless and the guys did a great job in pit road."

Nadeau's best previous finish was fourth. With the victory, he made the biggest jump in the standings, moving up to 20th and earning the last invitation to the season-ending banquet in New York next month.

Ward Burton had a sizable lead when the yellow flag came out on lap 312, the result of Scott Pruett spinning in the backstretch. But Nadeau got a great jump on the restart and Burton couldn't hold off the challenge, winding up third in the 325-lap race.

Pole-sitter Jeff Gordon was fourth and Bobby Labonte, who already had clinched the Winston Cup championship, held on for fifth.

The race, postponed Sunday by rain, began with an emotional send-off to Waltrip, who retired after a 29-year career.

Waltrip's daughters, Jessica and Sarah, commanded over the public address system, "Daddy, start you engine." Then, ol' D.W. was allowed to take a ceremonial lap at the front of the field before sliding into line at the back of the pack.

The same honor was given Richard Petty when he drove into retirement at the same track in 1992.

Waltrip wasn't a factor in the race. Starting last in the 43-car field, he finished 34th -- seven laps behind Nadeau.

Earnhardt, a seven-time series champion, moved up to finish second for the season behind Labonte. Jeff Burton slipped to third after placing 12th in the final race.

here were 23 lead changes among 13 drivers on the 1.54-mile oval. Nadeau led 155 laps and Ward Burton, with 96, was the only other driver in front for more than 17 laps.

Burton might have won if not for the last yellow.

"We were good on the long runs," he said. "It was our race to lose or win at that point."

Nadeau nosed his car inside of Burton's back bumper on the restart, then grabbed the lead between turns one and two. Burton questioned the tactic, but NASCAR officials took no action.

"He outran me," Burton said. "I'm not whining about it."

Labonte wrapped up his first Winston Cup championship in the next-to-last race at Homestead, Fla. He didn't coast to the finish, making another strong run at a track where he has four victories since 1996.

The nine-month-long Winston Cup season was extended an extra day when rain forced a postponement. The drivers took the green under sunny skies, but the frigid, 38-degree temperature made some cars difficult to handle in the early laps.

Several top contenders had problems.

Jeremy Mayfield was out front when a blown engine ended his day on lap 53. Mark Martin led for 17 laps, but his engine let go before the halfway point.

Tony Stewart, the winningest driver this season with six victories, was hurt by a mistake in the pits. His crew placed a left-side tire on the right front of his Pontiac, causing him slam the wall in turn two on lap 110. He got back on the track after lengthy repairs, then dropped out for good in 38th.

The 53-year-old Waltrip dubbed his final season "Victory Tour 2000" but he never came close to the winner's circle. He started last on Sunday, needing a provisional just to get in the 43-car field.

But Waltrip ended his 29-year racing career with 84 victories -- tied with Bobby Allison for the third-highest in Winston Cup history -- and three championships. He also will be remembered as one of the sport's most colorful and controversial figures.

Waltrip, whose last victory came in 1992, will move to the TV booth with Fox in 2001.

"Every time there's a changing of the guard, we always say, 'Oh man, what are we going to do?"' he said. "But, somehow, some way, someone always steps up and things continue on."

Nadeau acknowledged the retiring driver.

"It's good to win this race," Nadeau said, "especially the last race he's in."
 


ALSO SEE
NAPA 500 results

Notebook: Kenseth named Rookie of the Year

NASCAR Winston Cup farewells



AUDIO/VIDEO
video
 Jerry Nadeau takes the checkered flag to win the last Winston Cup race of the season.
avi: 1172 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Darrell Waltrip takes a ride down pit road before the start of his last Winston Cup race.
avi: 1375 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Jerry Nadeau comes off the restart and takes the lead for good with seven laps to go.
avi: 1418 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Wally Dallenbach gets spun out, but pulls off a 360 to keep going.
avi: 1537 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Dale Earnhardt takes over second place as he passes Ward Burton and Bobby Labonte with seven laps to go.
avi: 1301 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Jerry Nadeau says that a victory is a great way to end the season.
avi: 1062 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 ESPN's Matt Yocum talks with the Napa 500 winner Jerry Nadeau.
RealVideo: 28.8

 Benny Parsons wraps up all the exciting action from the NAPA 500.
RealVideo: 28.8

 ESPN's Matt Yocum reports on an excellent ending to the NASCAR season.
RealVideo: 28.8

audio
 Jerry Nadeau talks about his first career Winston Cup victory.
wav: 148 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 An emotional Darrell Waltrip says racing will be hard to walk away from.
wav: 236 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Dale Earnhardt felt lucky to finish second.
wav: 104 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Third place was a good way to end the season for Ward Burton.
wav: 109 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 The late caution was a blessing in disguise for Jeff Gordon.
wav: 168 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Jeremy Mayfield had the perfect car leading up to his early exit.
wav: 97 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6