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Marlin gets Dodge a victory in Pepsi 400

Posted: Monday, August 20, 2001

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Sterling Marlin has been the best Dodge driver all season, so it was only fitting he gave the automaker it's first Winston Cup victory in 24 years.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner passed Bill Elliott with 53 laps to go at Michigan International Speedway, and won when a heavy shower halted the scheduled 200-lap event Pepsi 400.

''We'll take them,'' said Marlin, who ironically last won in a race of the same name, at Daytona in July 1996.

Neil Bonnett got the last previous victory for Dodge in Ontario, Calif., in 1977. The automaker returned to Winston Cup racing this season after a 16-year absence.

Marlin beat Ricky Craven back to the finish line at lap 156 when the caution flew for rain, and the cars ran six laps under yellow before NASCAR called the race. An earlier shower at the halfway point had forced a 1-hour, 45-minute stoppage.

Craven finished a career-best second, with Elliott third. Matt Kenseth and Johnny Benson rounded out the top five.

''I kept looking in my mirror and I saw Ricky coming,'' Marlin said. ''It was raining and I was thinking, 'Man, they've got to call it,' because it was getting slick out there.' ''

Marlin's win -- the seventh of his career -- completed a sweep for car owner Chip Ganassi on Sunday. Ganassi driver Bruno Junqueira won the CART race in Elkhart Lake, Wis., earlier in the day.

Despite the long victory drought, Marlin remained confident in his ability.

''I never doubted myself,'' he said. ''I knew we could get the job done if we could get some stuff to do it with. I felt in my heart that I could still drive a race car as good as anybody.''

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Road America has a reputation for bizarre races and first-time winners. The picturesque road course provided both in the Motorola 200.

Sunday's race featured a virtual river running across the racetrack, a 48-minute red flag to stem the tide, a series of crashes including one terrifying hit in which the driver somehow escaped serious injury, and a wheel-banging exchange between two former teammates that set the stage for rookie Bruno Junqueira's first CART victory in the chaotic Motorola 220.

Junqueira found himself trailing former Elkhart winner Christian Fittipaldi late in the race, with former Newman-Haas teammate Michael Andretti bearing down behind.

''I tried to pass Christian a couple of times earlier and he was blocking and we nearly crashed,'' Junqueira said. ''When I saw Michael was there, I thought, 'I'm going to let him pass me and when he passes Christian I'm going to follow him.' ''

Instead, Fittipaldi banged wheels with Andretti. As Fittipaldi pulled his damaged car off the track and Andretti slowed, Junqueira took the lead.

''I had a nice clean pass going and he turned right in on me,'' said Andretti, who managed to stay on track and finish second. ''He obviously didn't see me, but I don't know how.''

Fittipaldi, a former Road America winner, said he even expecting such a move.

''I think it's a little optimistic to pass there,'' he explained.

Junqueira became the sixth driver to earn his first CART victory on the long, hilly road course and the ninth different winner in 14 races this season.

Formula One

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Michael Schumacher, known for his toughness on the race track, lost his cool off the asphalt in a big way after the most memorable day of his Formula One career.

The 32-year-old German who drives for Italy's Ferrari team, broke down and wept Sunday when the national anthems of those nations were played on the podium after he won the Hungarian Grand Prix. The victory tied him for the most in F1 history and gave him another series title.

Schumacher's win, his seventh in 13 races this season, out him on par with Alain Prost.

''We had a great weekend,'' Schumacher said. ''I got the pole. I got the 51st victory to share with Alain and I got my fourth championship. It's a bit too much for me to take.''

On Sept. 2, he will try for win No. 52, in the Belgian Grand Prix. Next season, Schumacher will try to match Juan Fangio's record of five championships.

With so much accomplished in one day, Schumacher struggled to find the words to express himself. So overcome with emotion, he was barely able to speak at all.

But after the music faded away and the scenes of jubilation from a sea of red-clad Ferrari teammates and fans had ended, Schumacher, often as ruthless as he is talented, regained his composure.

In a display of humbleness, he said he did not believe he should be compared to F1 pioneer Fangio.

''What he did ... when you think of the times, the safety, the car, that makes what we have achieved very small,'' Schumacher said, indicating a mere pinch with an accompanying hand gesture.

He also said that when he had started his first Formula One race at the Spa circuit in Belgium in 1991, he had never imagined that he could be as successful as he is today.

Immediately after the race, and in later interviews, Schumacher was lavish in his praise of the Ferrari team.

''It's wonderful,'' he said. ''Everyone works so well together. They stick together through good times and bad and there is such a great atmosphere. It is so human.''

Ferrari had other reasons to celebrate. It got its third consecutive constructors' title. Schumacher's championship in 2000 was the first for a Ferrari driver since Jody Scheckter in 1979.

Ferrari matched the record of 11 driver titles, shared by McLaren. Ferrari leads the series with 11 constructors' championships.

To cap off what was surely a perfect weekend, Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello finished second. Schumacher didn't forget him.

''Michael has given him the winner's trophy from this race,'' said team director Jean Todt.

''I am very proud of my contribution to this result, proud to be Michael's teammate and of being part of this success,'' Barrichello said. ''I think the team and Michael both deserve this great result.''

Schumacher looked invincible through practice sessions and qualifying. He won the pole Saturday. On Sunday, Schumacher got away to a perfect start and never relinquished his lead except for brief intervals after his two pit stops.

The season has been a fiesta, colored red, for the Italian team, which with its prancing stallion symbol has near-cult status with fans in Italy.

McLaren's David Coulthard, the only driver who had a chance to stop Schumacher's championship run, wants to add to his own victory total. He had a suggestion that might make the rest of the 17-race season more interesting.

''I think he should go away and take a holiday for the next four races,'' Coulthard said.

But Schumacher has no such plans.

''Every race is a new challenge and that goes for the remainder of the season too,'' he said. ''In my heart, I'm a racing driver and I want to win as many races as possible. The fire in me is burning even after this title.

''And that goes for the next season too, when I want to defend these achievements.''



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