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On track, teammates, family take back seat; Jarrett 'lie' irks Martin, and Earnhardts have spat; oil woes derail J. Gordon; Notebook; Daytona 500

THE BALTIMORE SUN

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Who can you trust during a Winston Cup race?

N-o-b-o-d-y.

Yesterday, that became obvious in the Daytona 500, as teammates betrayed teammates, sons ignored fathers and even champions went back on their word.

Mark Martin thought he had a deal with Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett to attempt a pass on the high side of Johnny Benson for the lead on lap 187. Instead, Jarrett ducked low and Jeff Burton, Martin's teammate, went low with Jarrett, leaving Martin all alone and in the backward stream of traffic, which landed him a fifth-place finish.

Jarrett, who moved into second and would pass Benson 10 laps later, said he went low to protect himself from Burton, whom Jarrett said he thought was going to go past him on the low side. "I know Mark will never believe me, but I really wasn't trying to snooker him," Jarrett said.

Burton said he went low, only because he saw Jarrett going low.

"I knew we were gonna go high," said Burton, "but I just could not run up high. So when I saw [Jarrett] go under Mark, I went with him because I knew if I went with Mark we'd both go backward."

Martin, who said he had a chance to win, was blunt about what happened.

"I got lied to," he said.

Earlier, it was the Earnhardts who worked against each other.

"Dale Jr. didn't work at all with nobody," said seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, who radioed his team that his son was going to cost both of them a good finish. "He wanted to pass. That's all he wanted to do, so that's why he finished where he did."

Dale Jr. finished 13th, while his dad, who also owns Dale Jr.'s race car, finished 21st.

The spat between the father and son brought a smile to Jarrett's face, though.

"Dale always seemed to be in my rearview mirror, but there at one point, he and Dale Jr. were in front of me," said Jarrett. "And Jr. hung his dad out to dry. I was behind him and I thought, 'Well, if you'll hang your dad out, I'll go with you.' But maybe he should remember who signs his paychecks."

Dale Jr., a rookie on the Winston circuit, saw it all differently.

"I just couldn't get anybody to follow me," said Dale Jr. "We had a real fast car. We could stay up with the front pack, but when the 88 car [Jarrett] came up through there, he was a lot faster than me, but I would have appreciated it if he would have helped me out a little bit. My dad, too. I thought my dad would be the first one to help me, but he was the last person who wanted to stay behind me."

Maybe they all should take the advice of Mike Skinner's crew chief Larry McReynolds, who midway through yesterday's race told his driver:

"Remember, you've got no friends out there," McReynolds radioed Skinner, who is the elder Earnhardt's teammate. "Don't let yourself get trapped and don't get killed."

Short defense

Defending 500 champion Jeff Gordon's Chevrolet lasted just 31 laps before having to go to pit road with oil spewing. Gordon tried to leave his pit after a brief stop to avoid losing a lap, but the caution flag came out for the oil he dropped on the track and NASCAR officials held him.

A lap later, his car was behind the wall, the team working hard on repairs. Gordon came back and managed a 34th-place finish, five laps down.

"I couldn't run with those Fords, but we were making some gains," said Gordon. "I think [before the oil line trouble] we could have gotten up to fifth or sixth, but that would have been about it. But I think we'll be fine next week at Rockingham [N.C.]."

Shop talk

NASCAR's Winston Cup garages usually operate from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. But Saturday night, Jarrett's team worked until 10 and was back at it again at 5 a.m. Which brought up the question of special treatment.

"Probably on the average one team or another come to us and ask for extra time once a week," said NASCAR's director of operations Kevin Triplett. "We leave the garage open late for somebody to make repairs or open it early. And the entire time it's open, we have a NASCAR official there. It behooves us to have cars in good shape for the race."

Triplett expressed surprise at the number of questions he received concerning the garage operating hours. He said not only did the Robert Yates team work overtime Saturday night, but so did several others, and when the garage was opened at 5 a.m., yesterday, seven teams went to work.

Another pit stop injury

For the second time in two weeks, a crewman was injured during pit stops. Nine days ago, it was Martin who ran into a crewman while entering his pits during the Bud Shootout. Yesterday, Tony Stewart's car struck tire carrier Mike Lingerfelt.

Lingerfelt was taken to Halifax Medical Center with a broken left femur and was scheduled for surgery last night.

Bodine still serious

Geoffrey Bodine remained in intensive care at Halifax Medical Center. His condition continues to improve, but he is still listed as in serious but stable condition. Yesterday, doctors would not speculate as to when he may be moved from intensive care or how long he will remain in the hospital.

Bodine suffered a cracked vertebra, a broken wrist and facial cuts during a spectacular crash Friday in the Craftsman Truck race.

A male spectator, who suffered an upper left arm injury in the crash, was discharged from the medical center yesterday morning and attended the 500.

Victory tour?

Darrell Waltrip is said to be on a "Victory Tour" commemorating the final season before his retirement. Yesterday, he was so far behind, one wag noted Waltrip's victory tour must be in a different time zone.

"There was a time when I was running along all by myself out there," said Waltrip, who finished three laps down in 32nd place, "and I fantasized that I was leading the race -- and there was no one in sight."

Rookie beginnings

Matt Kenseth was the highest finishing rookie in this 500, coming home in 10th place.

A million smiles

In the Winston No Bull Five contest, Melissa Brown, a 42-year-old data-entry operator from Pittsburgh, Pa., won $1 million when Jarrett won the race. The No Bull contest pairs five fans with five drivers at each of five specified races this season. If one of the five drivers win, both he and his fan get the million-dollar bonus.

Other drivers in the running yesterday were Ricky Rudd, Ward Burton, Earnhardt and Kenny Wallace. The next No Bull race is March 5 at Las Vegas and the five drivers will be the top five finishers here at Daytona.

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