Earnhardt Jr wins at Texas

Dale Earnhardt, Jr won his first career NASCAR Winston Cup Series race after just 16 starts on Sunday.

Earnhardt Jr wins at Texas

April Fool's? Hardly, though the elder achieved the same nearly 21 years ago to the day.

Earnhardt led some six times for over 100 laps, which earned him five bonus points, and took the chequers for the DirecTV 500 at Texas Motor Speedway with just under six seconds worth of daylight over Jeff Burton, who'd had his own battle with Bobby Labonte.

Junior is the seventh different winner so far this season, tying the Series records set in 1964 and 1991.

"It's pretty special," said an exhilarated Junior.

"I could not believe how I could get around the corner. We've been fast everywhere we went."

Rookie Ron Bouchard scored a victory in his 11th career NASCAR Winston Cup start in 1981, the earliest a rookie has won.

Earnhardt's victory marks the seventh straight year that there has been a first-time winner (1994-2000) and he is the second first-time winner at the Texas venue.

Jeff Burton recorded his first career series win in 1997. Calling his son down from atop the car, Dad Dale gave him a big hug to go with the ear-to-ear proud grin on his face.

"He's sometthing else. We knew the kid could do it." said Senior, who finished in seventh.

"The guys worked real hard. The boy drove a good race."

Crew chief Tony Eury was nearly speechless, and filled with emotion.

"It may hit me (that Earnhardt won), but that's the way we want to win. We wanted to come down here and show these guys."

All the happiness exhibited in Victory Circle wasn't felt by everyone who competed today.

There were 12 cautions, a new record, and a lot of torn up sheetmetal and bruised body parts, not to mention egos.

Matt Kenseth brought out the 12th, and final, caution of the day when the rear end of the #17 DeWalt Tools Ford appeared to break loose in Turn 4, sending Kenseth hard into the outside wall as he was running just outside the top-5.

Kenseth was checked and released from the infield care centre.

"I had a vibration that came and went all day. I was afraid it was going to blow, and finally it did. I don't know what it was, but it finally let go."

Probably the most ironic incident occurred when defending series champ Dale Jarrett was tagged by Robert Yates Racing teammate Ricky Rudd just 4 laps after a restart from the ninth caution of the day.

Jarrett was side-by-side with Bobby Hamilton, in the outside groove, when Rudd pulled up on the inside and caught the left rear corner of the #88 sending Jarrett into a spin.

The irony comes with the fact that Jarrett had slowed when the sixth caution flew for debris to allow Rudd to get his lap back.

Jeff Gordon didn't fare well once again at Texas. And neither did his teammate Jerry Nadeau, who slowed for a loose Dave Blaney after contacting the rear, was bumped by Gordon and sent spinning.

Bill Elliott then ran up on the front of the #24 before launching into a 2-wheel ride that would have made any stunt driver proud.

"I don't know what happened out there. I was just a victim," said Elliott after climbing from his car.

"I did feel for a while that I was in the Joey Chitwood thrill show. I think they should sign me up. It's pretty beat up, but we'll get it back out there."

Jerry Nadeau was checked and released from the infield care centre.

"What are you going to do? It's just part of NASCAR racing. "The cars bunched up in front of me and I got back in to the 93 after someone tapped me. We had a real good car, easily a top fifteen probably a top ten. I hate to see it. These guys worked so hard."

Kyle Petty took the wheel for the Woods Brothers after driver Elliott Sadler took a trip to the infield care centre.

Sadler was treated for a bruised left shoulder, after x-rays were negative, and released.

"The tyre tread came through the window net and hit him on the shoulder," Sadler said, "The tyre just kept coming up and hitting me and hitting me and hitting me."

Sadler and Sterling Marlin had an impromptu meeting on Lap 118, which was reason for caution number four.

Marlin wound up mired in the wet infield grass, and lost a lap. He later wound up in the garage, with a blown engine.

"This is a very bad track," said a somewhat disgusted Marlin. "You aim it and hope it goes where you aim it. I got stuck on the grass early. When we got that caught up the engine blew. We could put on a great race here if we could slow the cars down 15-20 mph."

Rookie Scott Pruett, who qualified third and was able to lead for a few laps, was effectively eliminated from competition early in the going.

Just after Earnhardt, Jr passed him for the point around Lap 17, Pruett's #32 Tide Ford spun and made hard contact with the outside wall just off Turn 4.

Pruett had slipped back down in front of Steve Park, and appeared to be back in line when the rear end broke loose.

Park's Pennzoil machine sported some damage on the front bumper, but the team denied he had touched Pruett.

The 500 miles were completed 3 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds at an average speed of 131.152 mph, slowed by 12 cautions for 62 laps.

There were 17 different leaders. Rusty Wallace, Kevin Lepage, Jeremy Mayfield, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Tony Stewart and Ricky Rudd rounded out the top-10.

Mark Martin finished just outside in 11th. Bobby Labonte leads the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings by 84 points over second-place Mark Martin.

This is the fifth straight race that Labonte has led the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings.

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series now heads to Martinsville Speedway. Starting next weekend, provisional starting spots will be awarded based on the 2000 championship points standings.

1 4 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr Budweiser Chev 334 $374,675


2 37 99 Jeff Burton Exide Batteries Ford 334 $259,550


3 14 18 Bobby Labonte Interstate Batteries Pont 334 $186,500


4 19 2 Rusty Wallace Miller Lite Ford 334


5 2 16 Kevin Lepage Familyclick.com Ford 334


6 31 12 Jeremy Mayfield Mobil 1 Ford 334


7 17 3 Dale Earnhardt GM Goodwrench Chev 334


8 1 5 Terry Labonte Kellogg's Corn Flakes Chev 334


9 38 20 Tony Stewart Home Depot Pont 334


10 20 28 Ricky Rudd Texaco Havoline Ford 334


11 10 6 Mark Martin Valvoline/Cummins Ford 334


12 11 31 Mike Skinner Lowe's Chev 334


13 16 97 Chad Little John Deere Ford 334


14 9 22 Ward Burton Caterpillar Pont 334


15 41 26 Jimmy Spencer Big Kmart/Route66 Ford 333


16 42 4 Bobby Hamilton Kodak Film Chev 332


17 27 42 Kenny Irwin Jr. BellSouth Chev 332


18 36 36 Ken Schrader M&Ms Pont 332


19 6 1 Steve Park Pennzoil Chev 332


20 34 14 Rick Mast Conseco Pont 331


21 32 55 Kenny Wallace Square D Chev 331


22 24 93 Dave Blaney Amoco Pont 331


23 25 11 Brett Bodine Ralphs Supermarkets Ford 330


24 30 66 Darrell Waltrip Route 66/Big Kmart Ford 328


25 23 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Auto Finishes Chev 320


26 43 77 Robert Pressley Jasper Engines & Trans Ford 318 Engine


27 3 32 Scott Pruett Tide Ford 318 28


28 60 Dick Trickle Power Team Chev 317


29 21 7 Michael Waltrip NationsRent Chev 300 Engine


30 22 94 Bill Elliott McDonald's Ford 297


31 13 17 Matt Kenseth Dewalt Tool Ford 288 Accdnt


32 40 43 John Andretti STP/Cheerios Pont 287


33 5 88 Dale Jarrett Quality Care Service Ford 285


34 39 40 Sterling Marlin Coors Light Chev 279 Engine


35 18 90 Ed Berrier Hills Bros Coffee Ford 270 Engine


36 15 9 Stacy Compton Kodiak Ford 255


37 12 33 Joe Nemechek Oakwood Homes Chev 253 Accdnt


38 7 27 Jeff Fuller Pfizer/Viagra Pont 233 Accdnt


39 35 21 Elliott Sadler Citgo Ford 221


40 33 45 Adam Petty Sprint Chev 215 Engine


41 29 41 Gary Bradberry Big Daddy's Chev 165 Accdnt


42 26 10 Johnny Benson Lycos.com Pont 143 Accdnt


43 8 25 Jerry Nadeau Michael Holigan.com Chev 110 Accdnt

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