Earnhardt rules Talladega

Posted: Monday, April 22, 2002

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. managed to avoid a 24-car wreck late in the Aaron's 499 and held off teammate Michael Waltrip for his second straight victory at Talladega Superspeedway.

Earnhardt, like his late father, has become a master of the superspeedways, racing to his third victory in the last four restrictor-plate races and leading 133 of 188 laps Sunday on the 2.66-mile oval.

Mark Martin, involved in a big wreck on lap 164, brought out the third and final caution flag of the day when his battered car stalled in the grass on the back straightaway eight laps from the finish.

With oil dumped on parts of the track, NASCAR -- just as it did in the season-opening Daytona 500 -- brought out the red flag and stopped the cars on the backstretch on lap 183 to give the safety crews time to clean the track and allow the race to finish under green.

The two DEI Chevrolets crossed the finish line just 0.060 seconds -- about one-car length -- apart. Earnhardt, who has six career victories, average 159.022 mph.

Kurt Busch wound up third, and Jeff Gordon, the defending series champion, wound up fourth, followed by current leader Sterling Marlin, Dale Jarrett and rookie pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson.

Marlin leads Matt Kenseth, who finished 30th, by 109 points.

Kenny Wallace, driving a car owned by Waltrip, finished fifth but was penalized to 21st for passing Marlin under the yellow line that runs along the bottom of the banked track.

Indy Racing League

NAZARETH, Pa. -- Scott Sharp won a battle of strategies when polesitter Gil de Ferran ran out of fuel on the final lap of the Firestone 225, the inaugural IRL race at Nazareth Speedway.

De Ferran had stopped on the 95th of 225 laps and was trying to nurse his car to the end. Sharp last stopped on lap 127, and thought he might not win because de Ferran was aided by several cautions that permitted him to save fuel.

De Ferran, who won at Nazareth two years ago, slowed coming off the second turn. Sharp raced by to take the lead, then held off Felipe Giaffone by less than a half-second. De Ferran coasted in third.

Sharp won despite being sent to the end of the field earlier for clipping the right foot of Helio Castroneves' crew chief and tire changer Rick Rinaman.

Sharp needed a caution and got one when Jaques Lazier and rookie Tomas Scheckter crashed on the 123rd lap. That permitted Sharp to take on fuel and stay out when the other leaders pitted late in the race.

Sarah Fisher finished fourth, followed by Castroneves.



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