Michigan - Competition Frustrated

Gordon frustrating competition just by winning By Shawn A. Akers BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 16, 1998) Sometimes, no matter what you do, it just seems as if you're fighting a losing battle. And who could blame Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, or even...

Gordon frustrating competition just by winning By Shawn A. Akers

BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 16, 1998) Sometimes, no matter what you do, it just seems as if you're fighting a losing battle. And who could blame Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, or even Bobby Labonte, for feeling that way lately. All three of those drivers have consistently posted top-five and top-10 finishes over the past few weeks in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. But with Jeff Gordon winning the last four races, including Sunday's Pepsi 400 presented by DeVilbiss, all of those drivers have consistently lost ground in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series points chase.

Martin, who finished fourth on Sunday, remained in second in the points chase, but is now 97 behind the defending champion, who earned his eighth win of the year after coming from behind to do so. Jarrett, who finished third Sunday, is now 233 points behind Gordon in third place in the standings, and Labonte, who finished second, is 423 points behind Gordon in fifth place in the standings with 12 races remaining on the schedule.

The situation has been especially frustrating for Martin, who finished second in all four of his previous races and finished fourth in Sunday's event after leading a big chunk of laps late in the 400-mile race.

"We got the race we needed, but we didn't have the car to win the race unless it went green all the way," Martin said. "It just wasn't meant to be. We would have won the race if there wouldn't have been that caution (beginning on lap 179 and going to lap 184).

"I don't care if I ever win another race -- I wanted to win this one, though (Martin had dedicated the race to his father, his father's wife, and Martin's half-sister, who were killed in a plane crash last weekend). I wanted this one for them pretty bad, and I dedicate my fourth-place to them. We'll just move on and look to next week."

Martin has finished in the top-five in eight of the last nine races, but hasn't won since the Miller Lite 400 at Michigan in mid-June. Gordon, on the other hand, has eight top-five finishes in his last eight races, and has only one finish out of the top-five (a 37th at Richmond) in the last 13 races.

A couple of races have hurt Jarrett's bid for his first championship over the past few weeks. Jarrett has eight top-five finishes in his last 11 races, but finished 15th on the road course at Sears Point in June and 16th on the road course at Watkins Glen last weekend.

Jarrett hasn't won since getting to victory lane at Dover on May 31.

"I said you've gotta win the race if you plan on picking up points and we weren't able to do that, so we lost again," Jarrett said. "We were racing hard (at the end), but for the wrong spot (second). I would have liked to have seen it gone green and not had any of those cautions at the end, but that's the way it falls."

Labonte, who has two career victories at Michigan Speedway, made a huge bid for the win on Sunday, but couldn't quite catch Gordon. Labonte has also been consistent over the past three months, with 10 top-10 finishes in the last 12 races.

Labonte, however, hasn't won a race since the DieHard 500 at Talladega in April.

"The car worked great today, but we just didn't have enough," the driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac said. "We got four tires at the end, we figured that we'd be alright, but the car was just a little too tight. What it's going to take to catch the 24 is anyone's guess. He and that team are just one fire these days, and that's an understatement."

Keeping Gordon out of Victory Lane, which seems virtually impossible these days, is the only way any of the other top-five drivers in the standings are going to make a bid for the NASCAR Winston Cup championship. How to do that is the big question.

"You all have to tell us," Jarrett said. "We don't know. Obviously, we're doing everything we can and it's not working. We just have to keep working harder and see if we can make it happen. (Having good fortune) I guess that's what it takes to have a winning streak, to have those things happen your way. He's (Gordon) got them going his way right now and it just doesn't seem anything Mark or I can do is gonna make any difference."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte