Gordon Takes 50th Win at Talladega

Who would've thought, after watching Mark Martin just plain dominate all afternoon, that Jeff Gordon would come from 36th to take his 50th career series win in the DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Gordon Takes 50th Win at Talladega

Gordon's first win since the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway last October, some 14 races ago resulted from making a real gutsy move that could have resulted in mass mayhem. He literally dove under Martin, his left-side wheels below the yellow line, to take the lead away.

Gordon, the ninth different winner in the nine races so far this season, was practically giddy at being in the spotlight again.

"This team, and this crew chief, Robbie, just did an awesome job. It took a while to get up to the front. I was getting frustrated back there for a while.

When you start shuffling up like that towards the end, you start getting some good pushes. I learned a lot of things from Earnhardt and I didn't want to see him coming up through there at the end. It's good to be back in Victory Lane."

Martin went from first to finish sixth after Gordon blew by bringing Mike Skinner, Kenny Irwin and Jimmy Spencer in tow. The good news for Martin is that, unofficially right now, he moves into the championship points lead due to Bobby Labonte's 21st place finish.

"We raced as hard as we could for it," said Martin. "We had a good run. He (Gordon) made a move probably earlier than he should have, but I can't blame him. It's been a long time since he won."

Mike Skinner finished second, but was driving his heart out to attempt his first career series win.

"We had a second place car best I can tell," Skinner said. "I thought Mark Martin had the car to beat. When Jeff dove under him there, I was able to go with him and that's about it."

Teammate Dale Earnhardt finished third after muscling his way on the outside with two to go.

"I'd just as soon race 500 laps at Martinsville than do this," said Earnhardt, who has been vocal of late about the restrictor plate races and the superspeedway shock program. "This is definitely not racing. It was just a shove and go, and push and shove. It's just terrible to have to race like this. It's not racing."

The new mandated restrictor plate which NASCAR put into effect for this race measures just 7/8th of an inch in diameter; read: small enough to choke back 25 horses. Team owner Jack Roush spoke on the new plate/shock programs before the green flag, and his analogy of what might happen came to be true:

"I don't think we have to have all the cars close to have close competition and I think that the problem with Daytona and Talladega is that you've got cars that, based on the format of the rules, you've got cars that really aren't close in terms of their crew chiefs capability, their driver's capability, the prowess of the team generally, that are able to run with the really sharp drivers, the really sharp crew chiefs, the drivers whose time has come.

"That makes for closeness that's unsafe, it makes for closeness that can certainly be frustrating and in some ways boring"

Part of the reason Earnhardt, and others, are so vocal is because of the 'packs' of cars running together at high speeds. Unfortunately, 'The Big One' - as any incident at Talladega is referred to - occured around Lap 139, after one of the DeBris Brothers had made an appearance seven circuits earlier.

The incident, which resulted in some 17 cars getting caught up in the melee at the start/finish line, was started by Scott Pruett. Pruett, for whatever reason, moved down into Robby Gordon, who drifted onto the apron while Pruett escaped serious damage to his Tide ride.

The moments that followed looked like bumper cars at an amusement park as cars literally bounced off each other, or a rousing game of ping pong. Those who pinged, and ponged after the initial contact between Pruett and R.Gordon, were Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Ken Schrader, Ricky Rudd, Jerry Nadeau, Michael Waltrip, Ed Berrier, Chad Little, Dick Trickle, Earnhardt, Jr., Robert Pressley, Jimmy Spencer, Steve Park, Ted Musgrave and Stacy Compton. Some parked it, while others had minor damage and continued on around the track.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. found trouble on the start, but not as troubling, or crowded as the later incident. Starting 6th, the first green flag start wasn't kind as Elliott didn't get up to speed causing Dad-E to apply the binders. Junior quickly did same, but did make contact with the rear bumper of the #3 seven-time champ's Monte Carlo.

Because Talladega doesn't require a lot of braking, teams can use a lighter brake assembly. The 'bad' can happen, however, when quick, full pressure is applied to the binder system. Junior retreated to pit road with the right front flat and not rolling. After extensive repairs, which basically included a new front assembly on the right side, he went back out. After the huge pileup, he wasn't so lucky and wound up with a 42nd place finish.

Kenny Irwin, Jimmy Spencer, Mark Martin, Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Kyle Petty and Ward Burton rounded out the top 10.

The race was fast, and exciting at times, with the lead being swapped nearly 20 times in just over three hours. The three cautions slowed the field to an average speed of just under 162 mph.

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will take a break next Easter weekend and then head to Fontana, Calif., and the California Speedway on April 30, before returning to the East Coast and Richmond International Raceway under the lights.


DieHard 500 Unofficial Finish Results
Talladega Superspeedway, 4/16/00
Talladega, Ala.

1 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevy 188

2 31 Mike Skinner Lowe's Chevy 188

3 3 Dale Earnhardt GM Goodwrench Chevy 188

4 42 Kenny Irwin BellSouth Chevy 188

5 26 Jimmy Spencer Big Kmart Ford 188

6 6 Mark Martin Valvoline Ford 188

7 5 Terry Labonte Kellogg's Chevy 188

8 40 Sterling Marlin Coors Light Chevy 188

9 44 Kyle Petty Hot Wheels Pont. 188

10 22 Ward Burton Caterpillar Pont. 188

11 43 John Andretti STP/Cheerios Pont. 188

12 99 Jeff Burton Exide Batteries Ford 188

13 10 Johnny Benson Lycos Pont. 188

14 12 Jeremy Mayfield Mobil 1 Ford 188

15 94 Bill Elliott McDonald's Ford 188

16 75 W. Dallenbach Cartoon Network Ford 188

17 88 Dale Jarrett Quality Care Ford 187

18 17 Matt Kenseth DeWalt Tools Ford 187

19 25 Jerry Nadeau Michael Holigan Chevy 187

20 32 Scott Pruett Tide Ford 187

21 18 Bobby Labonte Interstate Pont. 187

22 33 Joe Nemechek Oakwood Homes Chevy 187

23 77 Robert Pressley Jasper Ford 186

24 27 Mike Bliss Viagra Pont. 186

25 97 Chad Little John Deere Ford 185

26 66 Darrell Waltrip Big Kmart Ford 185

27 28 Ricky Rudd Texaco/Havoline Ford 181

28 90 Ed Berrier Hills Bros. Ford 178

29 50 Ricky Craven Midwest Trans. Chevy 173

30 93 Dave Blaney Amoco Pont. 151

31 7 Michael Waltrip NationsRent Chevy 148

32 1 Steve Park Pennzoil Chevy 145

33 9 Stacy Compton Kodiak Ford 140

34 20 Tony Stewart Home Depot Pont. 138

35 15 Ted Musgrave TBA Ford 137

36 36 Ken Schrader M - M's Pont. 137

37 13 Robby Gordon Menards Ford 136

38 71 Dave Marcis Realtree Chevy 136

39 60 Dick Trickle Power Team Chevy 135

40 55 Kenny Wallace Square D Chevy 130

41 2 Rusty Wallace Miller Lite Ford 116

42 8 D. Earnhardt Jr Budweiser Chevy 113

43 4 Bobby Hamilton Kodak Film Chevy 110

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