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Fast pit speeds Martin to victory

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 3, 2000


DARLINGTON, S.C. -- In his final Busch Grand National race at Darlington Raceway, Mark Martin won the Dura Lube 200 from the pole Saturday.

Martin took the lead after a final pit stop on Lap 130 of 147 propelled him ahead of Jeff Burton, who led the most laps during the race.

"That was the real key," Martin said. "Jeff Burton was really strong today and I don't know if I could have passed him or not."

Despite an accident that red-flagged the race four laps from the finish, Martin held on for his fifth win in nine races this season and 45th of his Busch career.

"Obviously the pit stop hurt us some, but you have good days and you have bad days," Burton said. "We had great pit stops all day and we didn't have a bad pit stop there at the end, they just had a great one, so I'm not down on my guys."

Jeff Green, who started second and finished fourth behind Burton and Elton Sawyer, leads the series by 604 points over Jason Keller.

THROTTLE SOLUTION: Jeff Burton may have an answer to avoiding serious crashes because of stuck accelerators.

Burton tested a new device aimed at stopping the problem last week at Darlington Raceway. The system relies on sensors in the engine manifold and braking system to automatically shut off the engine when it detects a stuck throttle. The system, which NASCAR is considering approving, could have been tested Friday when Bobby Labonte experienced a stuck accelerator and crashed during practice.

"Without a doubt it would've put him in a much better position," Burton said. "It will be better than anything else we could do. The (manually operated, NASCAR-mandated shut-off) switch is not an answer. It's kind of a real quick fix. This (automatic system) works. This deal, the driver doesn't have to do anything except what he would normally do. It without a doubt works."

TIMES CHANGE: It wasn't that long ago that Jeff Gordon ruled Darlington.

The three-time Winston Cup champion won the Southern 500 from 1995-98. He finished 13th last year and starts 10th today.

"The last time we were here at Darlington, I tried to drive the same race I had driven here in the past five years and it didn't work," said Gordon, who has won five times at Darlington Raceway. "If you didn't go hard right from the start and run as hard as you could the whole time and stay out of the wall, you weren't going to be in the top three or four positions, and I wasn't."

PIT STOPS: Should defending Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett win the Southern 500, it would make him the sixth driver to win NASCAR's three biggest races -- the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500. Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt and Gordon are the five to complete the Winston Cup triple. ... The Southern 500 will mark Waltrip's 800th Winston Cup start. Only two drivers have started more races. Seven-time series champion Richard Petty started 1,177 races, and Dave Marcis has 874 starts.

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