Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon

Jarrett, Gordon trade paint and barbs By Dave Rodman LOUDON, N.H. (July 12, 1999) For the most part, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett have had an amicable relationship. The battle for the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship escalated by...

Jarrett, Gordon trade paint and barbs By Dave Rodman

LOUDON, N.H. (July 12, 1999) For the most part, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett have had an amicable relationship. The battle for the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship escalated by a good number of degrees Sunday in the aftermath of the Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. With 16 events remaining on the 34-race schedule, it seems the gloves are off between points leader Dale Jarrett and three-time and defending champion Jeff Gordon. The pair was involved in a paint- and emotion-swapping battle in the final lap that escalated into a verbal, finger-pointing exchange in the NHIS garage area.

Jeff Burton used a day of patience, a rookie's inexperience, quick and efficient pit work and a little bit of luck to score his third straight Jiffy Lube 300 victory in the Exide Batteries Ford. But Gordon's maneuver with his DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet on Jarrett's Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford to take third spot in Turns 3 and 4 was the hottest of many Sunday buzz items.

The scene got ugly after the drivers had parked at the 76 Racing Fuel pumps in the garage. As the pair traded barbs, Gordon pointed to the backstretch and complained that Jarrett had virtually run him into the grass while blocking him.

Jarrett responded by harshly informing Gordon that if "you do it again" Jarrett would "knock that (expletive deleted) right out of the race track."

Jarrett never denied his tactics, but he definitely questioned Gordon's.

"I just got loose there at the end - we had two tires from before that had a lot of laps on them," Jarrett said. "The last lap there, Jeff caught me. He hit me once down in one and two, I blocked him down the backstretch and then he ran into the back of me not once but three times in turns three and four."

"Once is one thing, but he hit me three times and here that's uncalled for," Jarrett said. "If he wants to have a war we can do that, too."

"He didn't like the way I made the pass, but I didn't like the way he ran me down low, either," Gordon said immediately after the confrontation. "If he wouldn't have blocked me, I wouldn't have touched him, but once he blocked me all the way down low, I figured that was fair game."

Jarrett declined to reveal the nature of his conversation with Gordon, which unfortunately for him was captured and recorded by TV cameras.

"That's between me and Jeff," he said, declining to offer any details of their conversation.

"It was just a little bit of rubbing there -- we'll see each other again," Jarrett said. "We've got a lot of racing to do yet, so that's all right."

For his part, while stating for television that Jarrett basically earned the contact, Gordon's stance had softened considerably when he met with the media in the standard post-race press briefings. Jarrett had no similar cool-off session.

"There's nobody I want to race any cleaner than DJ, but I think the heat of the moment kind of got to both of us," said Gordon, who still faces a hefty 389-point deficit to Jarrett. "We'll patch things up. Me and DJ are fine. I love racing him and racing him hard, but it got a little hairy there on the last lap."

For Jarrett, his point was well made, and he left the track with his respect intact. In his mind, he had to make it in no uncertain terms. It calls the question, however, of what the man who's led the points for eight races will have for a demeanor if his point loss is more than the five he gave up to Gordon on Sunday.

Jarrett did end the day with a 240-point lead over Burton, who moved back into second with his victory. The margin is the widest anyone has held so far in 1999.

The exchange with Jarrett was not Gordon's first fender-bender of the day. Rusty Wallace was critical of him following contact in Turn 4 that spun Wallace's Miller Lite Ford into the wall and ultimately out of the race and into 42nd spot. Gordon's set-to with Wallace knocked the 1989 series champ back four spots to 12th in the point standings.

Wallace lambasted Gordon for a questionable move, while the champion said Wallace "came right down on me."

If nothing else, the move at the end by Gordon, so similar to Casey Atwood's pass of Jeff Green recently at The Milwaukee Mile, proves that NASCAR racing in 1999 has refreshingly not been totally sanitized.

"I don't know what happened to Rusty. I think him and Jeff got together again," said Kenny Wallace, who posted a career best second-place on Sunday in his Square D Chevrolet.

Wallace was recalling an incident last year at Richmond, in which Gordon was the loser in contact with the elder Wallace; and Gordon's stunning pass of the No. 2 on the apron this year at the Daytona 500.

"I think that one will play out for quite a while, again. It's a good show for NASCAR."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Rusty Wallace , Kenny Wallace , Jeff Green