Under normal circumstances, a victory by Dale Earnhardt is cause for a big celebration on the Winston Cup circuit. Not last night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt spun out leader Terry Labonte on the final lap, then went on to take the checkered flag in the Goody's 500 as a record crowd of about 140,000 cascaded him with boos.
It was the 73rd career triumph for Earnhardt and it gave the seven-time Winston Cup champion his first multiple-victory season since 1996. But in Victory Lane, Earnhardt tried to explain his move, which came on the 36-degree banking of the second turn of the .533-mile oval. Earnhardt tapped Labonte from behind, sending him into a spin that eventually sent his car slamming into the backstretch wall.
Earnhardt slipped past to victory and tried to explain himself as the fans almost drowned out his words with their derisive cheers.
"I didn't mean to turn him around," Earnhardt said, "but I wanted to rattle his cage."
Jimmy Spencer charged through the smoke of Labonte's wreck to finish second, followed by Ricky Rudd.
* IRL: Greg Ray claimed his third pole of the season, needing a tiebreaker to edge Sam Schmidt in a tuneup for the Colorado Indy 200 in Fountain, Colo.
For the first time in Indy Racing League qualification history, two drivers posted identical pole-setting speeds. Ray and Schmidt both were clocked in 20.424 seconds over Pikes Peak International Raceway's one-mile oval for matching speeds of 176.263 mph.
Ray was given the pole because, according to the IRL rule book, he posted the speed first.
After the two front-row drivers, Mark Dismore and rookie Scott Harrington will start on the second row with qualifying speeds of 175.996 and 175.953, respectively.
* FORMULA ONE: Finland's Mika Hakkinen won the pole position for today's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.
Hakkinen is the defending Formula One world champion, but is two points behind Eddie Irvine in this season's drivers' standings. Hakkinen was fastest from his first lap and had a best of 1 minute 50.329 seconds to edge McLaren-Mercedes teammate David Coulthard, who was clocked in 1:50.484.
Heinz-Harold Frentzen was third at 1:51.332, and Damon Hill was next in 1:51.372. Both were in Jordan-Mugen-Hondas. Irvine, in a Ferrari, was sixth in 1:51.895.