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Winston Cup notes

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 25, 2000

Leader's team not letting up on gas

DOVER, Del. -- Bobby Labonte, looking more like a champion with each passing week, has a season-best lead of 249 points after finishing fifth Sunday at Dover Downs International Speedway.

But his team isn't taking anything for granted, even though only seven of 34 races remain on the Winston Cup schedule.

Gas man Peter Jellen remembers a similar scenario in 1992, when the late Alan Kulwicki left Dover 273 points behind. Kulwicki, who was to die a year later in a plane crash, wound up winning by 10 points.

"I'm not counting anything until it's over," said Jellen, a crewman for Kulwicki at the time. "So, just remember, it can be done."

But it won't if Labonte continues to be consistent. If he averages sixth-place finishes, the 36-year-old Texan will win his first title.

HOPES BLOWN OUT: Jeff Burton, hoping to stage a late-season run for the title, looked like he was ready to take a major step.

Burton said he wouldn't be counting points but would try to reel in leader Labonte by winning races.

For a while, it looked like Burton would do that. But tires proved his undoing as they would to others.

Burton blew his right front, went into the wall, then had to scramble from his flaming Ford. He entered 168 points behind Labonte, but lost two positions and fell to fourth, 268 back.

ALMOST PAID OFF: Jeremy Mayfield added patience to his plan, and he thought it might help him find the winner's circle. But an engine problem ended his hopes. "We probably broke a valve spring," he said after finishing 35th.

Gearhead stats

TIME OF RACE: 3 hours, 28 minutes, 21 seconds.

MARGIN OF VICTORY: 6.752 seconds.

AVERAGE SPEED: 115.191 mph.

LAP LEADERS: Jeremy Mayfield 1, Johnny Benson 2, Mayfield 3-30, Benson 31-36, Mark Martin 37-47, Dave Blaney 48-51, Martin 52-100, Jimmy Spencer 101, Ken Schrader 102, Mayfield 103-104, Jerry Nadeau 105-110, Mayfield 111-117, Tony Stewart 118-119, Mayfield 120-132, Jeff Burton 133-169, Mayfield 170-173, Burton 174-175, Nadeau 176-200, Mayfield 201-225, Tony Stewart 226-253, Ricky Rudd 254, Bill Elliott 255-263, Stewart 264-342, Bobby Labonte 343, Joe Nemechek 344-346, Stewart 347-400.

CAUTIONS: 8 for 45 laps.

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