Sunday, May 05, 2002

Rain suspends Pontiac 400 after 66 laps

AP Sports Writer

        RICHMOND, Va. — Rain that delayed the start of the Pontiac Excitement 400 Winston Cup race for two hours Saturday night returned shortly after the race began, forcing it to be suspended until Sunday.

        Polesitter Ward Burton led the first 62 laps in his Dodge and appeared to have a dominant car, but never got a chance to prove it.

        The race is scheduled to resume at noon.

        When the rains returned on the 61st lap and Burton and most other cars headed for pit road, Dale Jarrett remained out on the track and assumed the lead, but said his car was in no way worthy of the top spot.

        “The biggest frustration is I don't have a very good car right now,” Jarrett said. “We made it better from the beginning, but we still can't get the front end to stick and that's going to be a problem here.”

        Michael Waltrip and Bobby Hamilton followed Jarrett on the leaderboard, though neither was in contention before the caution flew.

        Burton came off pit road seventh, also trailing Frank Kimmel, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Green, who was second when the caution came out.

        Burton said he was eager to get back out on the track, even though it meant coming back Sunday.

        “This might be the best car I've ever had here, but I'll have to wait and tell you that for sure tomorrow,” he said.

        The race will resume with the cars in the same order they came down pit road in when increasing rains caused NASCAR to red flag the race.

        Either way, it was a long night for drivers, crews and fans. Many fans arrived at the track early and tailgated through the rain and chill.

        The race, officially scheduled to start at 7:11 p.m., didn't get going until two hours later. Engines were fired at 8:54 p.m., and the cars made about 15 parade and warmup laps before finally taking the green flag.

        One night after a Busch race included a track record 11 cautions on the newly sealed oval, this race looked like a risky proposition when Jeremy Mayfield spun out in the second turn during his initial parade lap.

        But Mayfield righted his car without sustaining damage and no cars had trouble with what drivers had called a one-groove track early on.

        The only cautions came when Randy Renfrow's Dodge stalled on the backstretch after 25 laps, and when the rain returned 36 laps later.

        At the time, Burton led Jeff Green by more than two seconds.


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