The Callahan Report: Jarret Gets 1st Short Track Win, Martin Takes Points Lead
24 August 1997BRISTOL, TN: Dale Jarrett is busy writing a new resume. As impressive as his statistics were to date, he had never won on a short track. Jarrett, who is known for winning the big races, did it once again as he won The Goodys Headache Powders 500 in front of the biggest short track crowd in racing.
Jarrett endured a race that was typical Bristol. Sheet metal at this famed short track is meant to be bent. The race included 12 caution flags and one red flag. The driver of the number eighty-eight Ford Quality Care car added to his Winston Cup points tally by leading the most laps in the race. Jarrett crossed the finish line just ahead of new series points leader, Mark Martin.
Martin was the leader with 30 laps remaining. An oily track cost him the lead. Jarrett just got past Martin as the yellow flag was displayed for the oil cleanup. Jarrett pulled away on the restart.
Mark Martin is clearly thinking of the championship. He said, "There was oil on the track for about 10 laps and I didn't need to wreck. It was more important for us to finish and get those points. The yellow came out after he passed us and then I got a bad restart." Martin continued, "We needed a long green and we didn't get it".
Jeff Gordon was the series points leader heading into the event. Gordon spent all of his 99 point lead in a mid race crash. The cheers from the 125,000 fans on hand were as loud when Gordon slammed the wall as they were when Jarrett crossed the finish line. Gordon had dominated the race until that point. He had led 188 laps. The crowd was cheering even before Gordon's car stopped. Gordon rejoined the race 55 laps down and finished 35th. Martin holds a 13 point lead by virtue of his second place finish.
Gordon looked as though he needed some of the race sponsor's pain relieving product. "That's what happens on a track you can't pass on," said a dejected Gordon. "It was just typical Bristol. The lapped cars are trying so hard to get back on the lead lap. When I hit that wall, I knew it was going to be pretty tough."
David Green was in the middle of the nights most frightening crash. The melee started when Michael Waltrip tapped the rear of Derrike Cope's car. Cope tried to save his loose racer but slid up the track into Green's Chevrolet. Green rolled onto the driver's side and slid the entire length of the front straightaway before flipping all the way over and back onto four wheels. The incident also caused damage to cars driven by Dale Earnhardt and Brett Bodine. Earnhardt, who was tenth at the time, punctured his radiator when he slammed into the back of Bodine.
The crash left only one lane for traffic. NASCAR brought out the red flag immediately. The race was delayed for nearly 20 minutes. Green climbed out of his battered car complaining of neck and shoulder pain. He was taken to Bristol Regional Medical Center for precautionary X-rays.
Dick Trickle looked right at home in the final laps of the "under the lights" event. Trickle made two "bump and run" passes for position to come across the line in third place. Jeff Burton was fourth, followed by Steve Grissom.
The NASCAR Winston Cup circuit heads to Darlington next weekend. The race is part of the Winston Million. Jeff Gordon can pocket a one million dollar bonus if he can win the Darlington race.