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McLaughlin rises above fray to break BGN skid


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 22, 2001

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Mike McLaughlin might want to keep an eye on the rearview mirror the next time he sees Jimmy Spencer on the racetrack.

Saturday's Subway 300 at Talladega Superspeedway provided a glimpse into NASCAR's rough-hewn past after McLaughlin's first Busch Grand National victory in his past 75 starts.

Driving an unsponsored Pontiac owned by Joe Gibbs Racing, he took the lead from Jeff Green on Lap 104 of 113 and spent the rest of the race holding off a series of challenges by Spencer and Mike Skinner.

He beat Spencer by .125 seconds.

"I put the car on the bottom of the racetrack, which is what put me in a position to lead today," said McLaughlin, who started 14th.

"I went to protect my line on the bottom of the racetrack. ... I did what I had to do."

And infuriated Spencer, an occasional BGN competitor. "He won the race," Spencer said, "but I didn't forget it. That was the sloppiest, dirtiest thing I've ever seen."

McLaughlin was dumbfounded.

"Jimmy said dirty racing?" he said. "That's the pot calling the kettle black, I think."

The sour feelings weren't limited to those two. Defending BGN champion Green also chimed in about Spencer.

"Spencer did what he had to do," Green said. "We're out here running for points and if he wipes my car out it's not going to be no s--- off his a--. ...

"Jimmy thinks everybody's scared of him. I'm not, but I don't want to tear my car up in the process and he doesn't care."

There were five cautions during the event, including a 13-car pileup on Lap87. No drivers were injured.

Series points leader Kevin Harvick's day ended after 64 laps when he was involved in a single-car crash. He finished 40th.

Lakeland's Joe Nemechek, who started on the pole, finished 39th.

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