Jeff Gordon scored just his second ever Winston Cup victory at the 0.75-mile Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night, timing his late race run to perfection as Dale Earnhardt closed to within seven tenths of a second.

Gordon took to the front after gambling on staying on the track when a late race caution period sent many of the leaders scurrying to the pit-lane for a late tyre change. When the green flag came out, Gordon was able to get the jump on long-time leader Jeff Burton and cling on to the lead as those who stopped for new rubber charged up to the #24 DuPont Chevrolet.

After a nightmare August in which he did not finish in the top ten once, Gordon has yet to finish lower than fourth in September and this win, his third of the year, was his most aggressive since Robbie Loomis took over from Ray Evernham as crew-chief.

For much of the race Gordon was a contender for the top five but not the win as Rusty Wallace, Steve Park and Burton led the way. However the stifling conditions that caused several drivers to feel ill during the three-hour event took their toll and Wallace suffered an engine failure with 80 laps to go. This left Burton and Park leading although they were kept honest by Earnhardt, Mark Martin, Gordon, Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte as the race entered its closing stages.

However with less than 50 laps to go the Winston Cup points leader had his power steering fail and was forced into the pits where he would drop off the lead lap. Resuming a lap down, Bobby was able to recover to 15th at the end but was more than pleased with his position as his closest title rival going into the event, Dale Jarrett suffered a puncture and was classified 31st.

The deciding moment of the race came on lap 381 when WC debutant Casey Atwood tapped the wall bringing out the caution flag. Taking a gamble on worn tyres, Burton, Gordon, Park and Stewart stayed out while Earnhardt, Martin and Ward Burton chose to pit.

When the field went green for the final time, Gordon stormed into the lead and began to use the clean air ahead of him to pull away from Burton's Roush Racing Ford Taurus. Burton was able to fend off Park and Stewart although Earnhardt and Martin soon closed the trio down and with ten laps to go, the quintet were as one.

With the lucrative 'Winston No Bull $1 million' prize hanging over his head, 'The Intimidator was soon making his move for the front, dispatching Stewart with no difficulty and piling on the pressure to Park and Burton. Park, who races for the Dale Earnhardt Inc Chevrolet team was not about to let his boss have an easy run although Dale gave him little option as he barged his way through.

Burton was another difficult proposition for Earnhardt, who had Martin following closely in his wheel tracks and the Roush driver did everything he could to hold off the black Goodwrench Chevy but his 50 lap old tyres would not do what he wanted and with just two laps to go, both Earnhardt and Martin were through and chasing down Gordon.

Had the race gone two or three laps longer, Earnhardt would surely have caught Gordon who later admitted that he had no intention of racing Earnhardt when there was $1 million dollars at stake for 'The Man in Black.' However as it was, Gordon clung on by a mere seven tenths of a second to claim his third win of 2000.

It wasn't all doom and gloom for Earnhardt though, who moved ahead of Jarrett in the title chase, gaining valuable ground on Labonte in the process. Martin came home third after a spirited drive behind Earnhardt while Burton faded to fifth behind the resilient Park.

Stewart, Johnny Benson, Burton W, hometown hero Ricky Rudd and Jerry Nadeau rounded out the top ten on a day when no less than six drivers retired with engine related failures including both Roger Penske owned cars, Jeremy Mayfield stopping just before half distance to completed a miserable day for the ex-Formula One team-boss.

Bill Elliott made a successful return to action after a two race lay off and finished twelfth, last man on the lead lap while of the other Winston No Bull $1 million contenders, Dale Earnhardt Jr was the best placed in 13th while Atwood finished a more than respectable 19th after "having a ball."

With nine races to go, Labonte now holds a 158-point advantage of Earnhardt who is just four points ahead of Jarrett with Burton also within a race win of the leader. The WC circus now moves on to the New Hampshire International Speedway where the racing will be a mere afterthought against the ongoing safety concerns.