BROOKLYN, Mich. - Take 88, add 11 and you have 99.
When the 88 passed the 99 in the 11th hour of the NASCAR Winston Cup Pepsi 400 yesterday at Michigan International Speedway it gave the driver of the 88, Dale Jarrett, his second victory of the season.
It also marked the 11th anniversary of his first Winston Cup triumph, which came at MIS on Aug.18, 1991. It was his third victory here on Aug. 18, the other coming in 1996.
It was also Jarrett's 11th top-10 finish and the 11th race he's led this season.
“That number comes up a lot,” he said, adding a couple more to the list. “Number 11 was good to my dad [Ned, a two-time Winston Cup champion who drove a No.11] and the IROC car I drove [to victory] two weeks ago at Indianapolis was No. 11. I need to race more on the 11th or something.”
The 18th will certainly do at MIS, but when he also won here in 1996 and 1991, he started 11th both times.
Jarrett had to overcome a spinout 11 laps into the race and then had to get past very tough customers in Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr., on a restart with 11 laps remaining in the race following a caution period. That, just to be able to draw a bead on race-leader Jeff Burton in the No.99 car.
With five laps remaining, Jarrett passed Burton, whose engine was coming apart by the second, a water leak creating an over-heating situation.
Stewart finished second, 2.28 seconds back, with Kevin Harvick third, Jeff Burton fourth and Mark Martin fifth.
“When we had the restart with 11 laps to go, I was really just trying to keep myself calmed down,” Jarrett said. “I knew I should be able to get by the three guys that were in front of me. My concern was the 8 [Earnhardt Jr.], the 20 [Stewart] and myself racing each other and the 99 jumping out there, and he did jump out there.”
Jarrett said he spent more time than he wanted to getting around Earnhardt and Stewart, but once he had just Burton in front of him he noticed smoke coming out of Burton's car.
“I'm sure it affected him, but I don't think it changed the outcome,” Jarrett said. “My car was too good through the corners and I was chasing him down at a pretty rapid rate through the center of the corners anyway.”
Burton said the engine leak was prominent from the start of the race, his crew hydrating the engine on every pit stop.
“We thought we had ourselves in position, driving away from everybody,” Burton said. “After about five laps following that last green flag the thing started missing really bad and they just started coming. It was over then.”
Stewart was much more adamant about Burton's problem. Asked if he sensed that Burton's engine was having a problem retaining water, Stewart said, “Sense it? You could see it. It looked like a fountain at the fair. That's probably the reason why we got by him is because his motor laid down there at the end.”
Jarrett's race could have easily ended just after it began when he spun coming out of turn 4 and slid sideways about 200 yards through the infield grass. He got it back on the track and around to the pits for maintenance without going down a lap.
“We certainly didn't start out like we were going to be sitting here talking about a victory,” Jarrett said. “When I first looked and knew it was out of control, I was headed for the pit wall on the inside and something steered it away from there, thank goodness.”
Crew chief Todd Parrott admitted, “When I saw him spin, I said, `Oh no, this is going to be a long day,' but we knew we had a great race car and a great race team.”
Maybe even better than he thought.
Jarrett was 39th on the restart following his spin and hoped to be about 15th midway through the race, before a sellout crowd estimated at 160,000. He was sixth.
Following a caution period with 30 laps remaining, Jarrett fell back to 15th, his crew putting on four fresh tires while most of the leaders took a pair to retain their track position. It was a move that has backfired on Jarrett and his team on a couple of occasions this season, but this time it fired him to the front.
Ten laps later Jarrett was sixth. There was no question at that point who had the fastest car on the freshest tires.
“On lap 11, when I spun out, I wasn't sure I had enough talent to finish this day,” he admitted.42.11068 -84.24795