Dale Jarrett gave his fellow Winston Cup drivers and 350,000 spectators a lesson in the art of domination today.
The 42-year-old son of two-time stock car champion Ned Jarrett led 117 of 160 laps--including the last 43--to score a remarkably easy victory in the sixth Brickyard 400 on a warm, muggy day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
From the time he passed Mark Martin for the lead on Lap 40, the only time his No. 88 Ford Taurus was not in front was when Martin, Dave Marcis, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton led one lap each while Jarrett was pitting.
"The car was so strong that I could have gone harder and gotten more out of it if I wanted, or if we had needed it," Jarrett said. "The biggest thing about this year is that I'm in a car with Robert Yates horsepower. The engine was so good, I could beat anybody on the straightaways."
With storm clouds approaching from the west and rain falling at the Indianapolis Airport after the halfway point, Jarrett wasted no time in moving well ahead so that if rain halted the race, he would be in front. Rain started falling shortly after he took the checkered flag.
Bobby Labonte finished second in one of Joe Gibbs's Pontiacs, 3.3 seconds behind, followed by Jeff Gordon, last year's winner in a Chevrolet, Martin and the Burton brothers, Jeff and Ward.
Ned Jarrett, usually a NASCAR TV commentator, was his son's spotter in the first turn.
"It's a big racetrack," the driver said. "It was an advantage to have Dad up there as long as we keep him from commentating. As soon as he started calling the race, we'd have to cut him off.
"The advantage to having someone who has driven before is that he can anticipate. The position he was in, Turn 1, he could tell me when I had cleared, giving me all the track I could use."
The win, Jarrett's fourth this season in 20 starts, moved him 274 points ahead of Martin in his quest for a first Winston Cup championship and its $2 million bonus. "It's a lot more fun being in front [in points] because you can be in control of your destiny," Jarrett said. "It feels great to be leading because they [opponents] see the races counting down and realize they're running out of time."
Gordon, a three-time champion and winner of 13 races last season, said he felt Jarrett is out of reach this season. "They know how to win a championship," Gordon said. "They've been right there, second or third many times. I think D.J. is very, very tough right now. For us, we're not even thinking about him. He's on a pretty good roll. All of a sudden everything started clicking for them and, boom, now they're getting wins. D.J. and that Yates team deserve it."
Jarrett won $712,240 of the $6 million purse, increasing his season earnings to $1,810,096. It was his 22nd career win and second in the Brickyard 400, joining Gordon as a two-time winner. Jarrett's first win came in 1996. Tony Stewart, in Gibbs's other Pontiac, finished seventh and was the highest-finishing rookie for the 19th time this season.
Jarrett started fourth, but on the first lap swept past David Green to take third and was never farther back than third for the remaining 160 laps. Jarrett's domination was not only from the Ford's superior horsepower on the track, but from some sleight-of-hand pit work by Yates's crew. When a stalled car brought out the third and final yellow caution flag with only 14 laps remaining, all 21 cars on the lead lap ducked into the pits for their final service. Jarrett took on right-side tires and fuel and got back on the track in 8.78 seconds. The next quickest stop was by Labonte in 10.37 seconds.