Jarrett Gets Scare After Crash
Posted September 14, 2003 11:40 a.m. EDT
LOUDON, N.H. — Dale Jarrett suddenly found himself sitting in a car stopped in the middle of the racetrack Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway, with virtually the entire field bearing down on him at high speed.
It was a scary moment for the former Winston Cup champion, who saw a good performance spoiled when Jimmy Spencer hit the rear of his car on a restart just past halfway in the Sylvania 300. That sent Jarrett's No. 88 Ford hard into the concrete wall.
The rear of the car burst into flames momentarily. Jarrett rolled to a stop not far from the flagstand on the main straightaway.
At that point, Jarrett's spotter warned him that the rest of the cars on track were on their way, racing back to the flagstand to take the caution flag. It is a sometimes dangerous situation allowed under NASCAR rules.
"I started to get unbuckled, but my spotter told me to stay buckled in because they were coming," Jarrett said. "That's not a good place to be sitting, but it's just unfortunate. We had a really good car, and that hasn't been the case a lot of times this year."
Everyone else avoided his car, and Jarrett came away from the accident with only a bruised right knee from hitting the steering wheel.
It was a disappointing day, and Jarrett was already racing with a heavy heart as he and the rest of the Robert Yates Racing team continued to mourn the death of the wife of crew chief Shawn Parker.
Tara Parker and her two sisters were killed Wednesday night when a limousine taking them home from a concert in Greensboro, N.C., burst into flames after being hit from behind by a pickup truck.
"It's been a difficult time," Jarrett said. "We were hoping we could at least have a good run, and we did have a really good race car. It might help brighten Shawn's spirits a little bit, but, regardless of all that, we're still thinking about Shawn and his family and Tara's family."
Yates shared crew chief duties on the No. 88 team for the race with Shane Callis, who assists in car setup; tire specialist Scott Elkins; and car chief Jason Burdett.
Jarrett, who had been running in the top 15 most of the day, wound up 41st.
Ryan Newman didn't win Sunday, despite starting from the pole and leading for 47 of the 300 laps. But his ninth-place finish was his 12th top-10 in 16 starts and moved him past Jeff Gordon into fifth in the season points.
"It was just a difficult day for us," Newman said. "We got up front, but we struggled a little bit in traffic."
He also hit Tony Stewart's car from behind, knocking the defending Winston Cup champion into the wall.
"I want to apologize to Tony," Newman said. "I didn't mean to get into him like I did. I just tried to move in on him, and we were both looking for the same piece of real estate. I hope there's no hard feelings."
Stewart, who went on to finish 20th, left the track without commenting.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 120 laps Sunday and, at times, appeared to have the best car in the field. But, in the end, he had to overcome an engine problem to salvage a fifth-place finish.
"We had the best car and then, about 120 laps in, I lost a cylinder," Earnhardt said. "We had to run the rest of the race with seven cylinders. The car was still pretty good after that. I just had to make everything up in the corner that I was losing on the straightaway.
"On eight cylinders, we had the car to beat."
His finish, combined with a seventh-place run for series leader Matt Kenseth, cut Earnhardt's deficit in the season standings from 418 to 404 points with nine races remaining.
It is the first time in five races that Earnhardt has gained on Kenseth.
With the very real possibility of Hurricane Isabel disrupting activities next week at Dover International Speedway, NASCAR is keeping an eye on the weather.
"We'll be monitoring it very closely," NASCAR president Mike Helton said Sunday. "We've been through this before, so it's not a totally foreign thing for us."
Asked if NASCAR has a contingency plan, Helton said, "We have several options, but I don't want to get into them because people jump on things like that and suddenly they're saying: 'NASCAR is doing this' or 'NASCAR is doing that.'
"We're going to work hand-in-hand with the racetrack, and we'll know a lot more by the middle of the week."
Hurricane forecasters said Sunday that Isabel could hit anywhere along the Mid-Atlantic coast between North Carolina and New Jersey by Thursday or Friday.
Busch North qualifying is scheduled for Thursday at Dover, with the Winston Cup and Busch Series both slated for Friday qualifying.
Sunday's winner, Jimmie Johnson, joined Kurt Busch as the only drivers to sweep two races at the same track this season. Busch won both races at Bristol, and Johnson also won the race here in July.
Second-place finisher Ricky Rudd has been in the top-five in two straight races, the first time he has managed that since the spring of 2002.
Jamie McMurray finished 10th, the 13th time this season he has been the top-finishing rookie. He leads Greg Biffle, who finished last on Sunday, by 16 points in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings.