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Jarrett wins; Labonte keeps big points lead

Posted: Monday, October 23, 2000

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- The last time Dale Jarrett won a race was eight long months ago.

''I'm not sure it even feels like the same year we won at Daytona,'' Jarrett said Sunday after finally mastering North Carolina Speedway.

On a track where he had finished second six times in his last nine starts, the defending Winston Cup champion took the lead late in the Pop Secret 400 and pulled steadily away from old nemesis Jeff Gordon to earn his first win on Rockingham's 1.017-mile oval.

The race was slowed in the late laps by a fire in the pits that injured a crewman and two track firefighters.

Jarrett, who had not won since the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 20, took the lead with 43 of the 393 laps remaining when his Robert Yates Racing crew got him off pit road ahead of the pack during the last of nine caution periods.

Gordon drove past Ricky Rudd to take second place moments after the green flag came out for the start of lap 354 and briefly challenged Jarrett's No. 88 Ford. But Jarrett finally moved away, beating Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet to the finish line by 2.197 seconds -- nearly a full straightaway.

''Finally. No more bridesmaid here,'' said Jarrett, who picked up the 24th victory of his career.

It was Gordon who beat him in two of those second-place finishes. The 1997 spring race was particularly frustrating for Jarrett, who dominated only to see Gordon race past in the final stages.

''I think in some of those times past we learned some things from Jeff Gordon and his team,'' Jarrett said. ''They taught us a lesson that one day for sure, where we thought we were really home free and the last 30 laps they blew us away.

''When I looked up and saw he had passed Ricky back there, I was thinking, 'Uh, oh, what's going to happen this time?' But we had made the right decisions. It was nice to be able to beat Jeff.''

Gordon said his crew made major adjustments on the last pit stop ''and the car came to life.''

''But then it fell off after a little while. If I could have got ahead of D.J., it might have been a different story, but he was definitely quicker there at the end,'' Gordon said.

Malaysian Grand Prix

SEPANG, Malaysia -- Michael Schumacher ended the Formula One season in complete triumph Sunday, winning the Malaysian Grand Prix and helping Ferrari to its first sweep of the driving and constructors titles since 1979.

Schumacher, who clinched the driver's title two weeks ago at the Japan Grand Prix, ended the season with nine victories and his third driving title. The German won with Benetton in 1994 and 1995.

Schumacher's victory and the third-place finish by teammate Rubens Barrichello gave the venerable Italian team its first double since Jody Scheckter was at the wheel a generation ago.

In the grandstands, red flags bearing Ferrari's horse emblem flew everywhere,

Schumacher, third-place teammate Rubens Barrichello and even David Coulthard, the second-place finisher from rival McLaren, donned Ferrari-red circus wigs to celebrate.

Ferrari needed just three points and got 14 to win the constructors title, taking it for the 10th time, the best in Formula One history. McLaren was second with 152 and Williams-BMW third with 36.

''We did it,'' Schumacher said. ''We won the constructors' championship after all, not just by taking three points but by winning and being third. That is exactly the result the team deserves, in my view.''

Schumacher completed 56 laps in 1 hour, 35 minutes, 54.235 seconds, averaging 120.695 mph.

Schumacher held off Coulthard by less than a second over the final 10 laps. Barrichello was 18 seconds back, but ahead of Schumacher's chief rival, two-time champion Mika Hakkinen, who jumped the start and was handed a fatal penalty.

Schumacher won the first three races of the year and the last four. He ended with 108 points for the season. Hakkinen was second with 89. Coulthard was third with 73 points and Barrichello fourth with 62.

Sunday marked the 44th career win for Schumacher and his ninth of 17-race seasons, tying the record for most seasonal wins. Schumacher did it before over 17 races in 1995. Nigel Mansell won nine times in 16 races in 1992.

Schumacher has his sights on a fourth world title and a shot at Alain Prost's career-victories record of 51.

''We will have a good car and a good driver, from my side,'' Schumacher said. ''Then there are possibilities. Statistics are a second priority.''

Hakkinen, who was challenging Schumacher throughout the year, ended the race in fourth place. He made a furious charge through the field after being penalized for the jump-start with a 10-second halt that sent him briefly to last place.

Jacques Villeneuve of BAR-Honda came in fifth and Eddie Irvine, who won the inaugural Malaysian race last year for Ferrari, sixth. Irvine, now in a Jaguar, ended up more than 70 seconds behind.

Alexander Wurz, newly signed for McLaren next year as a test driver, came in seventh for Benetton Playlife, followed by Mika Salo of Sauber Petronas. Giancarlo Fisichella of Benetton finished ninth, trailed by Jos Verstappen of Arrows.

The race was virtually decided at the start when Hakkinen went out ahead of Schumacher in the pole position but was penalized.

Hakkinen was informed of the penalty by his team and let teammate Coulthard pass before he went in for his penalty at the end of five laps. However, Schumacher and Barrichello also went by.

Coulthard closed within a half-second with six laps left, Schumacher was very much in control.

The 2001 season begins in Australia on March 4.



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