The fastest car doesn't always win, but I would prefer to have the fastest car. Then I try to do what I can to win."

Darrell Waltrip, breaking a Talladega 500 jinx, did what he had to do to win the $377,000 NASCAR Grand National stock car race today by fighting off a challenge by Buddy Baker at the finish line.

Waltrip won with an average speed of 168.151 mph. There were 39 lead changes among 11 drivers.

"I never drove a car anywhere that drove the way that car ran, and I'm glad I was in it when it did that well," Waltrip said.

He said he knew if he could beat Baker to the third turn on the final lap, he could hold him off. "At that point, you have to cinch your belt up, put a smile on your face and go on."

With the win, Waltrip became the first repeat victor in the 14-year history of the race. It was the third superspeedway victory of the season and the seventh Winston Cup for Waltrip, who won the Talladega 500 in 1979.

Baker said he thought he could catch Waltrip on the last lap. "I moved to the outside and when I did, the car broke traction and slipped a bit," Baker said. "I couldn't gather it back up in time. Still I only lost the race by a few feet."

Waltrip clearly had the strongest car and he had it ahead of the others on 108 of the 188 laps.

Richard Petty, the Grand National record holder with 195 victories, finished third and was the leader on 27 laps around the 2.66-mile banked oval, as a dozen cars drafted on speeds above 200 mph in the lead lap. Cale Yarborough finished fourth, Terry Labonte fifth.