Schumacher Races to Second Consecutive Formula One Title

From Staff and Wire Reports

Michael Schumacher won his second consecutive Formula One championship, getting a victory Sunday in the Pacific Grand Prix at Aida, Japan, but no handshake on the podium from bitter rival Damon Hill.

Schumacher, who needed no better than a fourth-place finish in any of the final three races, overcame Hill's blocking tactics but didn't forget afterward.

"This is something between me and Damon," the German said. "We should sort it out ourselves."

The drivers had crashed into each other twice this year.

"Michael told me a few times after the race that he was unhappy about my driving," Hill said.

The Briton could have won the title by winning the remaining races if Schumacher finished worse than fifth in each.

Until pit stops on the 18th and 19th of the 83 laps, Hill had been running third and Schumacher fifth. After the pit stops, Hill had slipped to ninth and Schumacher soon was on the tail of polesitter David Coulthard of Scotland.

Schumacher continued to narrow the lead, then went to the front when Coulthard pitted on the 51st lap. When Coulthard returned to the track, Schumacher held an 18-second advantage.

Schumacher, who started third, beat Coulthard by 14.920 seconds. Hill was third, 48.333 seconds back.

"To win my second championship like this is a beautiful feeling," said Schumacher, who at 26 is the youngest driver to win two consecutive titles.


Ward Burton's victory in the AC-Delco 400 at Rockingham, N.C., his first Winston Cup victory, was overshadowed by the tightening championship duel between series leader Jeff Gordon and runner-up Dale Earnhardt.

Two weeks ago, Gordon led Earnhardt by 302 points. After Sunday's 400-mile race at North Carolina Motor Speedway, Earnhardt trails by 162 with two races remaining.

The race ended in confusion after an official's mistake forced NASCAR to put out the yellow flag.

Earnhardt was running sixth when he made his final scheduled pit stop under the green flag on lap 326 of the 393-lap event on Rockingham's 1.017-mile oval.

As he drove away, a NASCAR inspector thought he saw only four of the five required lug nuts on one of Earnhardt's tires. NASCAR brought Earnhardt in to put on a lug nut which turned out to be in place.

Earnhardt fell to 14th and his crew was irate over the situation.

NASCAR, with president Bill France Jr. taking the lead, chose to put out a caution flag, keep pit road closed and placed Earnhardt back into the proper position.

It took from lap 372 to lap 384 to get it all straightened out.

The last nine laps were run under green, with Earnhardt winding up seventh and Gordon, who ran into Darrell Waltrip on the last turn of the race, finishing in 20th place.

Burton was strong all day, leading the final 60 laps. He won in his 53rd career start.

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