- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

LONG POND, Pa. (AP) Dale Jarrett was starting to wonder when his slump would end. He knew luck played a part when that finally happened yesterday at Pocono Raceway.
Certain to be beaten by at least one driver who could have stretched his gas to the end, and being outrun by Ricky Rudd, Jarrett figured the Pocono 500 would be just another loss even though he was running well.
"That last yellow, that's when you know that prayer works," he said. "When that caution came out, I knew we'd have a chance."
Jarrett ended a 30-race losing streak and won for the third time in his career at Pocono.
He passed Rudd, his Robert Yates Racing teammate, on the 195th of 200 laps, then won under caution after Rudd hit the wall with one lap to go. Rudd looked like the driver to beat, but had a late tire problem that made it easy for Jarrett.
"Maybe not the best car but the luckiest car won today," said Jarrett's crew chief, Todd Parrott. "You just keep praying, keep hoping and keep working."
Rudd, who continues to run well but have late problems, was almost resigned to his fate.
"I guess the good thing is we're up front when we have trouble," said Rudd, who finished 17th.
Crew chief Michael "Fatback" McSwain was very upset by the team's continuing run of bad luck. A late tire problem also killed Rudd's chance for winning a week earlier in Dover, Del.
"Don't give me a gun to play with right now," McSwain said. "And you sure don't want to take me to Las Vegas with you."
The victory was the first for 1999 Winston Cup champion Jarrett since last July in Loudon, N.H. He also won on this 2-mile triangle in 1995 and 1997, both times in the Pennsylvania 500, Pocono's July race.
Jarrett got the 29th victory of his career.
Mark Martin had enough gas in his Ford to go the end, but was victimized when the key caution flag waved on the 168th of 200 laps. That permitted Jarrett, Rudd and the other contenders to gas up and have plenty of time to get back to the front.
"Knowing that everybody else had to stop, I could have started running half-throttle down the straightaways and really saved some extra gas," Martin said. "We feel like we would have easily been able to cover it."
Jarrett felt sorry for Rudd, who ended an 88-race losing streak by winning this event last year. But Jarrett was delighted to cap a great weekend for his family. His son Jason finished second Saturday in the ARCA series race at Pocono.
Even though he realized luck was on his side, Jarrett said a strong run put him in position to win. That hasn't been the case in many of his recent races.
"If you put yourself in the top five, you've got a chance," he said. "I might have been able to catch Ricky, but passing him might have been another."
He conceded Rudd had the best car, and said that teams constantly in contention are in position to have disappointments when things don't work out.
"There's nothing I can say to make them feel better," Jarrett said. "That team has been going through this for three years. Today, at least his teammate benefited."
The 45-year-old driver from Hickory, N.C., has not been effective for most of this season. His best previous finish was fourth in April in Martinsville, Va.
With the field set by points after qualifying was canceled because water from recent heavy rains was seeping through the track, Jarrett started 13th.
Polesitter Sterling Marlin wound up fourth in a Dodge.
"It was terrible early," said Marlin, whose lead in the series standings remained 136 points over third-place finisher Jimmie Johnson. "It was pretty decent at the end, but we were no match for the Fords and Chevrolets."
Johnson, a rookie who won last week, has become a major force in his Chevy. He has two victories in his last five races and has been in the top 10 in 11 of his last 13 starts.
Johnson thought he had a chance to win again yesterday in his first race on the mountaintop.
"The top four or five cars were dead even," he said. "It was just a matter of how we got through traffic."
The winner averaged 143.416 mph in a race slowed for 17 laps by five cautions. The $3.6 million race had 17 lead changes among 12 drivers.
Series champion Jeff Gordon, who overcame a spin on pit road with 47 laps remaining, finished fifth in a Chevy.
"I came on to pit road and couldn't get it slowed down," Gordon said after a late run from 25th position. "It's my own fault. But I'm happy with the finish."
Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart, Michael Waltrip, Rusty Wallace and Dave Blaney completed the top 10.

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