"Old Dominion 500" Martinsville II report

Old Dominion 500 Win Completes Craven's Comeback MARTINSVILLE, VA -- A couple of years ago, many had thrown Ricky Craven on the scrap heap of Winston Cup drivers. After a series of hard crashes and concussions, Craven took himself out of ...

Old Dominion 500 Win Completes Craven's Comeback

MARTINSVILLE, VA -- A couple of years ago, many had thrown Ricky Craven on the scrap heap of Winston Cup drivers.

After a series of hard crashes and concussions, Craven took himself out of competition so he could fully recover. It was a move that labeled him "damaged goods" by many in the sport.

But Monday afternoon Craven proved he was fully recovered. The driver of the Tide Ford led 94 laps of the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway and held off Dale Jarrett down the stretch for his first career NASCAR Winston Cup victory.

"With 20 laps to go, I sorta choked up. It was just really hard to concentrate," said Craven, who started sixth and led on three different occasions in the rain that was postponed from Sunday because of rain.

"When I crossed the finish line and my crew chief said 'you won the race,' it was like time stopped for me. This is what I've always worked toward professionally. This is exactly what I've worked for all my life."

Craven got a break late in the race while running third. Bobby Hamilton slipped under leader Kevin Harvick on lap 473 and Harvick came down hard on Hamilton in the fourth turn, spinning Hamilton. Craven took advantage of the melee and slipped past both Harvick and Hamilton to take the lead for good.

Craven wound up leading the most laps of the day, 94. He picked up $130,475 for the win in front of more than 75,000 fans. The track was close to a sellout of its 86,000 seats on Sunday before rains hit.

Craven wasn't home free when he took the lead on lap 473. Dale Jarrett hounded him hard the final dozen or so laps and even pulled up beside him a couple of times.

"I worked hard to just focus on running as hard as I could down the end. I' d come off turn four to see if he had made any progress and he had," said Craven. "But I felt comfortable with Dale Jarrett in my mirror. He's a gentleman. He didn't rough me up."

Craven's margin of victory over Jarrett was .141 seconds. Craven's win came in his 174th Winston Cup start.

Ward Burton was third in a Dodge, followed by Bobby Labonte in a Pontiac and Jeff Burton in a Ford.

Pole sitter Todd Bodine led only nine laps on the day and wound up 12th.

Winston Cup points leader Jeff Gordon wound up ninth, but still gained ground in the championship chase. Ricky Rudd, second in the points race, ran in the top five much of the day, but blew and engine on lap 397 and finished 39th. Gordon now has a 334-point lead over Rudd.

Johnny Benson, who started fifth, wound up sixth, followed by Mark Martin, Mike Wallace, Gordon and Sterling Marlin.

The next race at Martinsville Speedway will be the Virginia 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race, scheduled for April 14, 2001. Tickets can be purchased calling 1-888-RACETIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

-MS-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Todd Bodine , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Mike Wallace , Johnny Benson , Ricky Craven