DARLINGTON, S.C. -- There were memories of the late Dale Earnhardt everywhere -- and not all of them good -- as Dale Jarrett came from way back to win the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 on Sunday.
Jarrett, who started second then fell to 31st just 60 laps into the race, took off from Steve Park during a restart 10 laps from the end to give Ford its first victory of the season. He cruised Darlington Raceway with his arm extended, three fingers to the sky, in what's become each winner's tribute to Earnhardt -- whose car number was 3.
Earnhardt, who died a month ago at the Daytona 500, ''helped me get into victory lane today with what he taught me about this place,'' said Jarrett, who won at Darlington for the third time and 25th overall.
But it was scary reminder of Earnhardt's death so close to the end that brought flashbacks of the accident and anxiety for all who watched. Earnhardt's former teammate, Mike Skinner, crashed with Terry Labonte and spun to the center of the track, his car in flames.
Skinner, wearing a head and neck restraint system developed by his team, climbed out amid the fire, apparently not seriously hurt. Earnhardt was not wearing such a restraint when he died of a head injury Feb. 18. NASCAR stopped the race for almost 11 minutes to clean up the mess from Skinner's crash.
''I thought we was finally going to get us a top 10 here at Darlington. It's a tough break,'' Skinner said.
Labonte also gave the thumbs up sign coming back from the infield care center.
Park had led 164 of 293 laps, but could not move back up front after losing the lead in the pits to Jarrett.
''The pit crew did a great job getting us out front and that's the only way we were going to beat Steve Park,'' said Jarrett, who only led the last 16 laps.
The pits were where Jarrett fell way behind as the crew failed to properly attach two lugnuts on his left front tire. But after Jarrett worked his way to second, his team got a second chance to show their skill with a 14.2-second stop on lap 279 to nose their driver in front of Park.
Jarrett won $214,612. He was 65 points ahead of Marlin and Benson with Gordon falling to fourth, 95 in back after his 40th-place finish.
Peninsula Clarion ©2014. All Rights Reserved.