Jarrett outduels Busch for Subway 400 win

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   ROCKINGHAM, NC -- Dale Jarrett outdueled Kurt Busch in a thrilling finish to win the Subway 400 Sunday at North Carolina Speedway.
   The two leaders battled tooth and nail over the final laps as Jarrett passed Busch on lap 384. Busch got back past Jarrett as they encountered lapped traffic, but the No. 88 UPS Ford was just too strong as Jarrett made the winning pass with only three laps remaining.
   "I didn't know the 97 had come back," said Jarrett about his 31st career Winston Cup victory. "I knew there were cars with new tires and I just didn't know who was passing. I was just trying to keep my car going straight. We had to adjust on the car all day. We were loose most of the day.
   "You know what kind of competitor Kurt Busch is. He's not one to give up the lead and when he came back by me, like I said, I didn't even know it was him. It was just a great race. It was fun, just good side-by-side racing. This is what the fans like."
   It was Jarrett's first victory on the tour since winning at Michigan last August. He extended a streak of scoring a win in the last 11 Winston Cup seasons, tops among active drivers.
   "That was a lot of fun," said Busch. "If that doesn't get you pumped up, I don't know what does. We were just a little too aggressive on the rear tires. We burned them off, just like we did here last fall. We're missing a little something to get to victory lane here at the Rock.
   "We had a little understeer at the end. It was pushing, loosing its forward bite. That's why Jarrett was able to get by us at the end. I saw D. J. back there and tried to pace myself to stay in front of him.
   Defending race champion Matt Kenseth was fast closing at the end scoring a strong third place finish.
   "It was a great day for our team," said Kenseth. "We almost caught the leaders, but it was really tough at the end of a tire run. It was like driving on ice. The guys on new tires would blow right by you as they had a lot of grip and we were sliding around like crazy.
   "I got held up there a little at the end, but I'm sure the leaders did too. We had a good car. We just needed to be up front."
   The first three drivers were all in Fords, with Ricky Craven posting a fourth place finish in his Pontiac. Rookie competitor Jamie McMurray rounded out the top five in a Dodge.
   "This is a great race track you can race at," said McMurray. "When you would catch a guy, you didn't have to follow them. We changed our car all day long and made the right adjustments. I'm just racing every week to try to win the race."
   Rusty Wallace was the story the first half of the race, leading 160 of the first 197 laps. Busch finally overtook Wallace on the 220th circuit, but not before Wallace had collected the bonus for leading the most laps. Wallace finished sixth as his winless streak on the circuit extended to 27 months.
   "The thing was a bullet," said Wallace about his Dodge. "It was handling perfect and the motor ran great. As the day went on and the track rubbered up, I could see it changing. About three-quarters through the race, I could see the track turning black.
   "I had the thing turning good and it got too free. I could hardly touch the throttle. It would tighten up, but it lost the front end. It's both a little bit disappointing and encouraging."
   It was a miserable day for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. as he was involved in five seperate cautions. The yellow flag flew the first time after his left tire blew on lap 46 leaving debris on the speedway. The third incident was a spin on lap 173 after contact from defending series champion Tony Stewart and the last a spin on lap 174. Stewart's front fender was damaged in the accident, eliminating him from contention. Stewart finished the race 20th, one lap down.
   The final incident with Earnhardt was contact between he and Jeff Gordon which sent Gordon's car spinning down the frontstretch. After being at the tail end of the lead lap with 93 laps remaining, Gordon battled back to a 15th place finish.
   For Jarrett, his was an entirely different story. After starting the racein ninth, he faded to 18th early on, before rallying to the front. He moved past Bobby Labonte to second with fifty laps to go, before latching onto the back of Busch's bumper where he waited to make his move.
   Busch now leads the Winston Cup point standings with 1999 champion Jarrett in second 31 markers behind as the tour heads to Las Vegas. Jimmie Johnson is third place in the standings 33 points back of the leader with Mark Martin in fourth and Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip in fifth.
   Racing will continue at North Carolina Speedway today when the Busch Series will make up their event delayed by rain on Saturday.