Coca-Cola 600 Notebook
Jarrett salvages decent finish, retains points lead
Posted: Monday May 31, 1999 12:50 AM
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) -- While Jeff Burton was savoring his victory in the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night, Dale Jarrett was celebrating his fifth-place finish.
"That could have been ugly," said Jarrett, who started 28th in the 43-car field, quickly fell one lap off the pace and never flirted with leading.
Jarrett got his lap back by passing the leader on an early restart, then spent the rest of the evening merely trying to keep his car under control.
"I just missed it," he said. "I thought it was going to be a lot looser than it was, and we just plowed."
Jarrett, who came into the race with a 63-point lead over Burton atop the Winston Cup standings, saw his margin shrink to 33.
Kenseth entering Winston Cup in '99
On the day Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his Winston Cup debut, Busch Grand National points leader Matt Kenseth outlined his plans to also move up to NASCAR's top circuit.
Kenseth, the Grand National points leader, said Sunday he will run five Winston Cup races later in 1999, beginning with the Aug. 22 event at Michigan Speedway, before moving up to the circuit on a full-time basis next year.
Kenseth, 27, will drive a Ford Taurus owned by Jack Roush, who already fields a Winston Cup series-high five cars.
"Jack Roush has built a tremendous organization with great people at every level, and I can't wait to take advantage of their program," Kenseth said.
Also making the jump with Kenseth are Robbie Reiser, his crew chief, and DeWALT Industrial Tool Co., his primary sponsor on the Grand National circuit.
Kenseth lost out to Earnhardt for the Grand National championship last year. They have swapped positions in the standings this year.
Kenseth announced his Winston Cup plans at Lowe's Motor Speedway at Charlotte, where Earnhardt drove in the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, his first event on stock car racing's premier circuit.
Kenseth also plans to drive in Winston Cup events this year in Darlington, S.C., on Sept. 5; Dover, Del., on Sept. 26; Concord, on Oct. 10, and Rockingham, on Oct. 24.
Long known as a leader in pre-race antics, the speedway staged another extravaganza Sunday, enlisting the aid of the 82nd Airborne Division for a mock battle against the forces of evil.
The conflict, staged on the grassy area in the infield trioval, featured plenty of exploding buildings, fake gunfire, burning trucks and low-flying passes by helicopters, much to the delight of the crowd.
The biggest cheers were reserved, however, for when one of the helicopters dropped a line onto which four members of the 82nd attached themselves. The chopper then raised up to 200 feet and flew slowly around the speedway, dangling the tethered soldiers below.
It took about 30 minutes for the U.S. troops to successfully complete their mission, eradicating the enemy and making the speedway safe again for racing.
Grand National driver Kevin Schwantz, flown by helicopter to Carolinas Medical Center in neighboring Charlotte after crashing in a race at the track Saturday, was upgraded to fair condition Sunday.
Schwantz was originally diagnosed with a brain contusion and a fractured pelvis, and he was listed in serious condition when he was admitted. But doctors subsequently discovered that Schwantz, the 1995 Grand Prix world motorcycle champion, had actually fractured the hip during a previous cycling accident.
He dislocated the hip Saturday, and it was put back in place.
Doctors said Schwantz was alert Sunday and was moved from the intensive care unit to a private room.
Winston Cup car owner Harry Melling, who died of a heart attack Saturday in Michigan at age 54, was remembered before Sunday's race with a moment of silence.
Melling's team members also wore black arm bands on their uniforms, and they put special decals in his memory on the car, driven by Jerry Nadeau.
A memorial service will be held Tuesday at the golf and ski resort that Melling's family owns in Gaylord, Mich. A funeral will be held Thursday in Jackson, Mich.
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