The Car Guy of Benchfield
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By Jan Bazen
It was an exciting day of racing for Sterling Marlin and Tony Stewart at Lowe's Motor Speedway during the UAW-GM Quality 500. Sterling took the checkered flag with Stewart following close behind in second. Ward Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Burton rounded out the top five, while Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin, and Bobby Labonte finished 6th through 10th respectively.
Although there were 19 lead changes between nine drivers in today's event, Marlin and Stewart traded the top position for most of the race. Tony Stewart, who started 6th, took the lead for the first time on lap 51 before Marlin, who started 13th, took it from him on lap 96. From that point on, Stewart would regain the lead after pit stops and Marlin would overtake him on the longer runs. Marlin led for a total of 135 laps and Stewart led 130 laps. This was Marlin's first win at Lowe's Motor Speedway and his second win of the 2001 season. The two drivers were close in the point standings coming into today's event, and that did not change after the race today. Stewart is 3rd in the standings with Marlin only 44 points behind in 4th place.
The top two point leaders, Jeff Gordon in the #24 Dupont Chevrolet and Ricky Rudd in the #28 Texaco Havoline Ford, both had disappointing days in the early goings. Both drivers qualified uncharacteristically poor for the event, with Rudd starting in the 19th position, and Gordon in the 20th position. The two drivers moved up the track quickly before the problems started. Rudd was moving out of his pit stall when he unintentionally ran into Rusty Wallace, who was also leaving the pits. Both cars were damaged. Wallace was able to recover after several pit stops to correct a toe-in problem and finish 7th. Rudd, however, struggled the rest of the race and ended up finishing 21st, four laps down. The problems between these two drivers since the Bristol race this August have been much publicized, so it was astonishing when these two ended up trading paint again. It was a relief, however, not to see any revenge taps between the two for the rest of the race. Jeff Gordon got caught by the caution flag on lap 111 during a green flag pit stop and was unable to beat the pace car back to the line. He ended up a lap down. Gordon eventually got back on the lead lap before once again getting a lap down. In post-race interviews, he stated that he had struggled with tires problems all day. He finished 16th, one lap down. Gordon still leads the points standings with Rudd 222 points behind in second place.
There were only eight cautions in today's race compared to 13 in last week's race at Kansas.
There were three new drivers to Winston Cup Racing for the UAW-GM Quality 500. Jimmie Johnson, the newest member of Hendricks Motorsports, started in the #48 Lowe's Monte Carlo, a car is also co-owned by Jeff Gordon. Twenty- year old Scott Kirby started in the #75 Ford qualifying for his first Winston Cup Event in his first attempt. Carl Long, in his 8th attempt to qualify for a Winston Cup Race, started the #85 Dodge after qualifying 30th.
Next week we go to Martinsville, Virginia for the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway. I will be attending and I hope to see you all there!
Jan is a RN who lives on the North Carolina coast with her husband, three children and her dog. When not watching or reading about Nascar, she enjoys fishing...any kind of fishing. She enjoys gardening and reading. Although Jan is new to the sport of Nascar, she was exposed to Nascar from the early, tender age of 5 by her older brother, Fred, who has always been a diehard Nascar fan. Jan welcomes any comments or opposing views. You can contact her by clicking on the North Carolina tag above.
2001 Car Guy of Benchfield