After knocking on the door to victory lane all season, Dale Jarrett finally opened his 2001 account in Sunday's Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at the Darlington Raceway but only after getting the jump over long-time race leader Steve Park.

Dale Jarrett sailed to the top of the current NASCAR Winston Cup points standings as he led the final 18-laps of the 293-lap Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at the fearsome 1.36-mile Darlington Raceway to record his 25th NWC victory and the first for new Robert Yates Racing No.88 Ford title sponsors UPS.

Jarrett, who started from the outside of row one, became the fifth different winner this year as he used a lightning quick final stop from the RYR crew to catapult him out of the pits ahead of Steve Park, who had led a race high 164-laps up until the final round of stops on lap 275 and looked to have the most consistent car of all on a day where the legendary Darlington tarmac was very difficult to tame and many drivers took home a 'Darlington stripe' for their troubles.

Jarrett survived a late race red-flag, flown when Mike Skinner and Terry Labonte had a fiery coming together in Turn Three and then survived the following seven lap sprint to the chequered flag when racing resumed to eventually win by a comfortable one-second over Park who narrowly missed out on a second victory in his Dale Earnhardt Inc Chevrolet.

Park had looked set to run out a convincing winner as he led the race by as much as two seconds for the fifty laps prior to the final stops, brought about when debris on the track brought out the sixth caution of the day. Second off pit road behind Jarrett, Park too sustained his position during the final seven-lap sprint but was not able to overhaul the leader despite finishing well ahead of third place man Jeremy Mayfield.

Mayfield had by far his best run of the year thus far as he rose from 37th on the grid to eighth within the first 100 laps and then made use of good pit-work from the Penske Racing crew to overcome Sterling Marlin late in the race and then finally hold off a particularly determined Jimmy Spencer in the closing laps for his first top three result of the year.

'Mr Excitement' Jimmy Spencer was in fine form all day in the Travis Carter Racing Ford and one of the series' most colourful figures continued his strong recent run with another hard fought display as he visible wrung the No.26 machine for all it was worth as he remained inside the top ten virtually all day, fourth spot a just reward for a thoroughly enjoyable (to watch) forceful effort.

The ever-consistent Marlin was once again the quickest of the Dodge contingent as he racked up his fourth top ten result of the season with fifth place. The No.40 Coors sponsored machine led proceedings early on and then headed the charge after Park in the closing stages before the car went slightly loose in the closing laps as Marlin lost out to Mayfield and Spencer on the final re-start.

John Andretti produced his best run of the year with sixth place in the Petty Enterprises Dodge after starting 34th while Johnny Benson may now be tied for second place in the points standings with Marlin but was not happy with seventh place at the end of the race after leading convincingly prior to the penultimate round of stops on lap 225 when an errant wheel dropped the MBV Motorsports driver to eighth and nearly cost him a drive through penalty. Thankfully the driver of the No.10 Valvoline Pontiac avoided a penalty but was not able to make much headway after his crew put him in a prime position to take his first NWC victory with a lightning quick 15.2-second stop on lap 191 which elevated him from fourth to a lead of over four seconds.

Ricky Rudd came home in eighth spot in his 700th NWC start while Bobby Hamilton put in another smooth run for ninth spot ahead of Rusty Wallace who never looked completely at ease with his car on a track that was greatly different during the race than it had been during practice on the previous day. Wallace held off Bobby Labonte who survived a trouble-free, if low-key, afternoon to take eleventh spot and some solid Winston Cup points.

Track conditions accounted for many of the harmless brushes with the wall that were seen during with the race as some drivers struggled with a set-up that was not suited to the cool, overcast conditions and therefore felt the legendary Darlington concrete a little harder than they would have liked.

Some of the wall banging incidents were a bit more serious than others with Skinner's wreck with Terry Labonte being the pick of the bunch although all drivers were thankfully uninjured, some were hurting in other places after a poor run in damaged machinery.

Robby Gordon, who may be replaced in the Morgan-McClure Motorsports Chevrolet by Kevin Lepage by the time the NWC circus reaches Bristol next weekend, scraped the wall as he battled a car that continually felt off-balance as he drove to a disappointing 29th while Dale Earnhardt Jr hit the Turn Four wall as early as lap 46 and damaged the right hand side of his Budweiser Chevrolet en-route to a distant 34th.

Others to record disappointing results after making contact with the concrete included Joe Nemechek (24th), Ricky Craven (27th), Kurt Busch (30th) and Todd Bodine (33rd) while Stacy Compton and Ron Hornaday went one step further and eliminated themselves altogether with a pair of solo efforts, the latter two occupying 42nd and 43rd overall, Hornaday in-front.

Mechanical problems also claimed several victims with erstwhile points leader Jeff Gordon the man hardest hit as he brought the No.24 Chevrolet into the pits on numerous occasions in the second half of the race as the temperature needle went off the gauge. After leading nearly 80-laps in the early going from pole-position, Gordon eventually retired the steaming DuPont machine 65 laps from the end and was officially classified 40th.