An auto racing story and caption in yesterday's editions incorrectly stated who has clinched seventh place in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. The correct driver is Dale Earnhardt. (Published 11/22/99)
The prestige and big money belong to new champion Dale Jarrett. Still, there's plenty riding on the season-ending NAPA 500 Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Only two of the top 10 positions in the standings have been clinched--Jarrett in first and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in seventh.
"There are still an awful lot of spots that are still to be decided," said Jeff Burton, who is fifth, 78 points behind sensational rookie Tony Stewart and just two ahead of three-time series champion Jeff Gordon.
"We take a lot of pride in finishing in the top five in the points, and this is an opportunity to win a race, too," said Burton, who has six victories to Gordon's series-high seven this season. "That's why we go to every race, to win, and this gives us another chance to do that.
Although no one has a shot at Jarrett, who won his first Winston Cup title last Sunday in Homestead, Fla., Burton likes the script for this race.
"To me, it may even be more exciting because a lot of teams will throw everything out to win because some people can't go up and down either way in the points."
For example, he pointed to older brother Ward and Earnhardt's teammate Mike Skinner, who are ninth and 10th in the points, respectively. Ward Burton has only one Winston Cup victory, and that came in 1995. Skinner, the 1997 rookie of the year, has yet to win, although he has come close.
"They might do some real gambling on Sunday to try to get a win here," Jeff Burton said.
The uncertainty goes much deeper in the field as well, with teams outside the top 10 looking to attract a new sponsor or keep a current one. Others are trying to finish in the top 25 in the car-owner points to earn available provisional starts should they fail to qualify for some races early next season.
"It is critical that we stay in the top 25 in points going into next year," said Kevin Lepage, who is starting on the pole for the first time in his Winston Cup career.
Lepage, who drives a Roush Racing Ford, is currently 24th in the car-owner points, 78 behind both Kenny Wallace and Bill Elliott, just three points in back of rookie Elliott Sadler and eight ahead of Kyle Petty.
Chad Little is 26th, only 17 points behind Petty and within reach of Lepage.