MOTOR RACING ROUNDUP : Earnhardt Easily Scores Ninth Darlington Victory
Dale Earnhardt, the six-time and defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion, overpowered the field Sunday while winning the TranSouth Financial 400 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Earnhardt, who won this race a year ago when it was 500 miles, led 10 times for 166 of the 292 laps, including the final 33 in an event shortened by 100 miles in the interest of competition and fan comfort.
The victory, Earnhardt’s first in 17 races, moved him within one victory of David Pearson’s record of 10 on the 1.366-mile Darlington oval and was the 60th victory of his career.
Earnhardt’s black No. 3 Chevrolet Lumina, fielded by Richard Childress Racing, came across the finish line 7.4 seconds--nearly a straightaway--ahead of Mark Martin’s Ford Thunderbird. Bill Elliott was third, also in a Thunderbird.
The 28 lead changes and 11 different leaders were records for a 400-mile event at Darlington, as were the seven drivers finishing on the lead lap. Earnhardt’s winning speed of 132.432 m.p.h. was shy of Pearson’s record 132.703 set in May, 1968.
“Victory lane hasn’t changed a bit,” said Earnhardt, who won $70,190. “This is where our run (to the championship) started last year. This racetrack is tough to beat.”
Germany’s Michael Schumacher took advantage of superior work by his crew and a spin-out by favored Ayrton Senna to win the season-opening Formula One Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo.
Schumacher took the lead after he and the Brazilian stopped on the 21st lap, then was virtually guaranteed victory when Senna--in a desperate attempt to catch up--spun out with 15 laps remaining.
Schumacher, driving a Benetton-Ford, completed 71 laps around the 2.637-mile Interlagos circuit in 1 hour 35 minutes 38.759 seconds--averaging 119.7 m.p.h.
“There’s nothing better than winning not by luck, but by fighting,” the 25-year-old German said.
Senna, the pre-race favorite in his first ride for Williams-Renault, locked himself in the team’s motor home after the race.
Britain’s Damon Hill, Senna’s teammate, was second. Jean Alesi of France was third in a Ferrari.