Formula One
 Sunday, April 16
Junior's day ends before it begins
 Associated Press

Sunday, April 16
Jeff Gordon finally got back to Victory Lane here at Talladega. It took him nine races in 2000 to get there, but during that time Gordon was always pleasant and tried to put on a good face.

He was trying to absorb all the pressure, knowing most of the time the pressure was squarely placed on crew chief Robbie Loomis. But Gordon took that pressure away from Loomis so he could focus on the car and team. I think that was one of the keys for Gordon getting back to Victory Lane.

Gordon was not only driving the car -- he was helping drive the team so Loomis could focus on the mission of getting back to Victory Lane. It all paid off today at Talladega.

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- The green flag had barely dropped before Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s day in the DieHard 500 was done.

Earnhardt's chances of winning at Talladega Superspeedway were ruined seconds into the race Sunday when he blew a tire while trying to avoid hitting his father, Dale Earnhardt.

When the green flag dropped, Earnhardt Jr. accelerated toward the starting line but apparently moved too quickly and rolled up onto the rear end of his father's car.

"The No. 3 just stopped after the green flag and I don't know why," he said. "I didn't think I was shifting that much better, but I got right up on him."

Earnhardt Jr., fearing he rear-ended his father, locked up his brakes and blew the right front tire. He was on pit row repairing the front valence and brakes one lap into the race.

He got the car back on the track, though, only to get caught up in a 16-car accident on lap 138. He finished in 42nd place, 75 laps off the pace.

"I'm ticked off," he said. "But there's no one to be ticked off at. I'm disappointed because I really messed up the car before the race even started."

Yates' bad day
It was a bad day for everyone involved with Robert Yates Racing.

First, defending Winston Cup Champion Dale Jarrett ran out of gas on the backstretch of lap 120 and fell off the lead lap as his car slowly sputtered into the pits.

After a quick stop for fuel and tires, Jarrett was flagged for speeding out of the pits and had to return for a stop-and-go penalty. He finished 17th, one lap down.

Teammate Ricky Rudd, who was running near the front most of the day, was involved in the 16-car accident on lap 138 and finished the race 27th, six laps down.

Talladega's trademark "Big One" happened on lap 138 Sunday and involved 16 cars. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries.

But the team's scariest moment came on lap 175, when Dave Blaney lost control of his car at the entrance of pit row and went spinning wildly through the pits. Crew members scattered everywhere to avoid being hit, and in the commotion, team owner Robert Yates jumped off the wall and fell to the ground.

Yates was down for several minutes, but eventually was helped up and went back to work with nothing more than a sore leg. He declined to comment on the incident.

Double duty
Michael Waltrip's day ended earlier then he hoped, but he was able to turn it into a positive because it moved up his trip to Boston.

Waltrip, knocked out of the race in the multicar accident on lap 138, jumped on a plane and headed to Massachusetts, where he plans to run in Monday's Boston Marathon.

"I'm going to take a break from this craziness and try to run that marathon," he said. "I'm not very smart, as you can tell."

Waltrip runs as a way to stay in shape for racing, and in doing so he built up his endurance enough to attempt the marathon. It will be his first attempt at any marathon.

"Something like the Boston Marathon, to participate in that would be something I'll always remember," he said. "I think 17,000 people are going to be running and I hope to finish somewhere around 16,000th or so -- I don't want to bring up the rear."

The marathon also will help Waltrip take his mind off of rumors surrounding his race team. Waltrip, winless in 437 Winston Cup starts, has heard that the Chevrolet of Jim Mattei Motorsports will be sold but said no one can confirm it.

"I haven't been informed what's going on," he said. "But any time there's that much talk, it's not just a rumor -- there's something to it."

Elliott 15th in No. 600
Bill Elliott wanted little fanfare for Sunday's race, which was the 600th of his career.

"It's just a number," he said. "It's hard to believe it's been that many, that's all."

Still, Elliott would have loved to mark it with his first victory in six years. He had a shot at winning late in the race -- he was running in the top five with 20 laps to go -- but got blocked out of the draft and quickly fell back in the pack.

He finished 15th, which still wasn't bad considering he was the only driver penalized Sunday under NASCAR's new pit rule that requires teams to pick up their tires.

The rule, which was first used last week in Martinsville, is intended to keep cars from running into tires left out after stops. Four teams were hit with penalties last week.

Elliott's team was penalized on lap 117 when the crew members violated one rule by throwing the catch-can over the wall, in addition to leaving a tire out. Elliott had to come in for a stop-and-go, but still managed to catch up with the lead pack.

Gordon gives DieHard fans reason to cheer