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Michael Schumacher: 3 in a row in Japan GP

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 14, 2002

SUZUKA, Japan -- Michael Schumacher delivered a perfect ending to a near-perfect season.

SUZUKA, Japan -- Michael Schumacher delivered a perfect ending to a near-perfect season.

Schumacher, who finished among the top three in each race, won his third consecutive Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, his 11th win this season.

The Ferrari driver finished second five times and third once. His run came days after Formula One officials recommended a plan to handicap a car by adding extra weight if its team builds an early points lead next season.

The five-time world champion led a 1-2 finish for Ferrari, with Rubens Barrichello in second. Schumacher was assured the title three months ago with six races remaining. His second-best season was nine wins, which he did three times.

"What has been outstanding is that we finished every race -- not only finished but we finished every race on the podium," Schumacher said. "The quality of the job of the mechanics ... it's unbelievable what they have achieved."

The German started from the pole and covered 53 laps of the 3.6-mile Suzuka circuit in 1 hour, 26 minutes, 59.698 seconds.

Barrichello, who led for a lap when Schumacher made a pit stop, was a half-second behind. Ferrari finished 1-2 for the ninth time, and the drivers finished 1-2 in the standings.

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen was third and Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth in a Williams, clinching third in the standings. Japan's Takuma Sato was fifth, a lap ahead of sixth-place Jenson Button in a Renault.

FALL NATIONALS: Doug Kalitta raced to his third Top Fuel victory in four NHRA events, winning at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis.

Kalitta, third in the season standings, had a 4.582-second run at 322.58 seconds to beat Cory McClenathan (6.565 at 130.62).

"The car started to rattle and I thought we were going to smoke the tires," Kalitta said. "But the car collected itself and it ran strong. We really picked it up from qualifying and were real happy to be able to carry this momentum forward and get another win."

Del Worsham and Jeg Coughlin also won their divisions in the $1.9-million competition, the 21st of 23 events.

Worsham beat Bruce Sarver in the Funny Car event, finishing in 4.862 to earn his fourth win of the season and 11th of his career. Sarver's car broke at the starting line.

Coughlin had a run of 6.826 at 202.33 for his seventh Pro Stock victory of the season. He beat Gene Wilson, who left the line early.

Coughlin increased his points lead over Jim Yates with the victory, the 30th of his career. With two races remaining, Coughlin is 108 points ahead of Yates.

LAS VEGAS 350: David Starr broke a 65-race winless streak, beating Truck series points leader Mike Bliss.

Starr, who started his Chevrolet from the pole, took the lead on the 142nd of 146 laps when Ted Musgrave's Dodge cut a right front tire and headed for pit road.

Starr and Bliss, who also drove a Chevrolet, circled the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway just feet apart over the final four laps. Starr held a lead of about a truck length beginning the final lap and edged Bliss by 0.492 second -- 2 lengths.

Starr averaged a race-record 135.394 mph. He won $43,200, plus a $10,000 bonus for winning from the pole.

"The last 15 laps were pretty tough," said Starr, who fell back to ninth at the 60-lap mark. "I was trying really hard, almost too hard. I needed to keep up my momentum and the truck did get loose on me one time and I almost lost it.

"I can't believe I just won a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race."

The victory also was the first for his team owner, Wayne Spears, whose trucks have appeared in 187 of the series' 189 events. Spears' best also was a runner-up finish.

Bliss, who led 66 of the 146 laps, extended his points lead to 85 over Rick Crawford. Crawford's Ford, which started third, finished sixth. Musgrave is third in the standings, and Starr fourth.

Dennis Setzer was third in the race, followed by Travis Kvapil and Jason Leffler.

Seven of the race's 26 finishers completed the 219-mile distance. The race was slowed by just two caution periods for 10 laps.

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