Jarrett wins at Talladega, Chase standings shuffled

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 3, 2005

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) - One of the knocks on NASCAR's championship format is that it relegates the 33 drivers not in the title hunt to also-rans, their fate meaningless as 10 others race for the Nextel Cup title.

Dale Jarrett changed that, stealing the spotlight from the Chase for the championship drivers by pulling out a dramatic last-lap finish Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

The wreck-filled UAW-Ford 500 shuffled the points standings - putting Tony Stewart back on top while knocking Jimmie Johnson down to fourth after he caused an early accident - but it paled in comparison to Jarrett's first victory in 99 races. Jarrett, who last won a race in 2003 at the now-shuttered North Carolina Speedway, said he would take the time to cherish this victory after failing to properly celebrate following his last win.

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''We were so used to winning in those days, I didn't see any reason we wouldn't just continue right on doing that at least a couple of times each year,'' Jarrett said in a hoarse, emotion-filled voice. ''But over the past couple of years … we haven't been in position to do that as much. I think we've got some more victories to go, but in case that doesn't happen we'll make sure we enjoy this one.''

No, Jarrett's team had been in a slump since late 2002, when crew chief Todd Parrott left. The two had been a potent combo, winning 26 races, two Daytona 500s and the 1999 championship.

But Jarrett never matched the chemistry he shared with Parrott while running through seven replacement crew chiefs since 2002. So car owner Robert Yates made one last-ditch effort, putting Parrott back with Jarrett just last week as they attempted to turn around the struggling team.