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Jeff Burton wins rain-shortened race

Aug. 31, 2002 at 8:08 PM   |   Comments

DARLINGTON, S.C., Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Jeff Burton was declared the winner of the NASCAR Busch series Gatorade 200 at Darlington Raceway Saturday in a race halted by rain just short of the halfway point on lap 74.

With rain dragging out the proceedings, the event was stopped just 100 yards from the start/finish line, which would have made it an official race. But when darkness settled in, it was obvious the race could not continue.

"Technically, we have completed halfway of the scheduled distance, which the rule book says, and hopefully, we would complete the 75th lap under green," NASCAR president Mike Helton said. "If we can't, then it's a race by the rule book. We'd like to do it differently, but the weather hasn't cooperated. The circumstances today aren't going to let us do that."

Burton was nearly asleep in his car when he was told that he presumably was the winner.

"If that's true, that's good news," he said. "It seems like we're a lap short to me. It was hard for me to believe that we would ever get this race track dry. Plus, it's pretty dark.

"That feels good. That pit stop was pretty big when we came in 12th and went out seventh."

It was Burton's third straight Busch series win at the 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway.

With rain on the horizon, pit road open and the race five laps from the midpoint, teams had to decide if it was more important to pit or if the race would end early due to rain.

Jimmy Spencer decided to pit for four fresh tires while the leaders stayed on the track for position. Spencer was gambling that if green flag racing resumed, the new tires would give him an advantage.

Burton was the leader and the fastest car on the track at that point and decided to stay out with rain on the way.

But with one lap to go before the halfway point, NASCAR officials brought the field down short of the start/finish line and brought out the red flag.

"C'mon (race director) David Hoots, what's going on now?" Burton's crew chief, Brad Parrott, asked. "We've got Labor Day on Monday. This is crazy."

Burton even tried to nudge his way over the start/finish line, about 100 yards away, which would have made the race official. A NASCAR official was ordered over the wall to hold Burton's Ford from creeping over the line.

"It looks like eight miles right now," Burton said from his car. "It's raining really hard. I saw a boat go by a little while ago."

Earlier, the race was halted for nearly 4 1/2 hours.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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