September 1, 2002
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Jeff Burton won the rain-shortened South Carolina 200 on Saturday when, after the third stoppage, the cars were led across the start-finish line to make the race official.
The race was stopped 300 yards from the halfway point, just short enough to stop it from being an official event. But after an hour wait, and with darkness falling on Darlington Raceway, the event was finally called and the pace car led the field over the line.
"We were trying to get the race in all day, it was a long day for the competitors and we were going to do everything we could for the die-hard fans," NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said. "We wanted to get some more green flag laps in, that's why we stopped it short of the halfway point, but when it became clear we couldn't, we had to call it."
The start was delayed over four hours because of rain. When NASCAR finally tried to start it, the rain started again and the cars completed four laps under caution before officials stopped it again.
The field went green more than two hours later and Burton, who started 33rd, stormed to the front of the field. He was leading when Jamie McMurray crashed to bring out a caution flag, and the rain started again.
NASCAR stopped the cars short of the start-finish line on what would have been the 74th lap -- signifying the halfway point. A race is official once it reaches halfway and NASCAR wanted to get there under green flag conditions.
"I like racing and I applaud NASCAR for doing everything they could to try to finish it," Burton said. "But I thought, gosh, if we have to bring all this people back Monday for 300 feet! There are very few times you get to laugh in your race car, but I couldn't help but laugh when they finished it like that."
It was Burton's third-straight Busch series win at Darlington and gave him a season sweep here -- he won in the spring.
Jason Keller finished second, Jeff Green was third and was followed by Busch series points leader Greg Biffle and Jack Sprague.
"I sure would have liked to go all the way on to the end, but it didn't happen and we'll just go on to next week," Keller said. "NASCAR appeared to do everything they could to finish the race and we could have taken the easy way out and rode by the start-finish line and it would have been an easy event. So I commend them for trying."
But Green said it was frustrating waiting for NASCAR to decide how to handle the race.
"I can't believe we just ran 24 hours of Darlington," he said. "NASCAR tries to do what it can for the fans even though it aggravates the drivers a little bit."
Rain has washed out most of the on-track activities, with qualifying for the BGN race and today's Winston Cup event called off.
But the Cup cars got in two brief practice sessions on Saturday morning and Burton used the time to get a feel for the track before the Busch race.
"It wasn't a disadvantage for him, that's for sure," rookie Scott Riggs said. "I think it would have definitely been better to have equal practice on the racetrack."