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``I'm still learning things all the time,'' Gordon said Sunday after
winning the inaugural California 500. ``I learned how to conserve fuel
today. I never had to do that before. It was pretty interesting.''
The 25-year-old wunderkind put the finishing touches on his seventh
victory in 15 starts this season and the 26th win of his budding career
by nursing his Chevrolet to a 15 car-length decision over Hendrick
Motorsports teammate Terry Labonte.
Gordon promptly ran out of gas going into the third turn on the
cool-down lap. He had to coast the rest of the way to Victory Circle,
cutting across the grass beside the front straightaway as most of the
crowd of 85,000 at the sparkling new California Speedway stood and
``I didn't know I was going to win the race until the checkered flag,''
Gordon said. ``This was one of those nail-biters. They were telling me I
was a lap short (on gas). But I knew I saved a lap of fuel the way I was
running out there at the end.''
Gordon was in constant radio communication with crew chief Ray Evernham,
who knew it was going to be a close call.
``Ray got me nervous,'' Gordon said. ``I wasn't nervous until he started
telling me to `Conserve! Conserve! Conserve!' But I didn't want Terry to
catch up too much. I thought he might really have something for me if he
could catch me.
``I was trying to keep the distance between Terry and me about the same.
I was really, really conserving, even down the straightaways, and
letting the car roll into the corners.''
All of the leaders were affected by the gas situation.
Mark Martin, who came into the race with a string of eight straight
top-five finishes, kept the pressure on Gordon and finally passed him
for the lead on lap 234 of the 250-lap event.
Martin began to pull away, but was forced to stop for a splash of gas
six laps later, giving the lead back to Gordon, who easily stayed in
front of Labonte, the defending series champion, the rest of the way.
Following his stop, Martin was in fourth place. But he ran out of gas
again one lap from the end and wound up 10th, falling 92 points behind
Gordon in the Winston Cup standings.
``We needed long runs at the end, but we just didn't have the mileage we
needed,'' Martin said. ``Gordon was awful fast, but there at the end of
that run, my car came on and his didn't. ... We had a good run. We had a
contending car. That's all we can do.''
Gordon, who led six times for a race-high 113-laps, crossed the finish
line 1.074 seconds - about 15 car-lengths - ahead of Labonte. The winner
ran the final 55 laps - 110 miles - without stopping.
Labonte, still looking for his first win of the season, made his final
pit stop one lap after Gordon and knew he had enough gas to finish.
``I lost a lot of time on my last pit stop,'' Labonte explained. ``I had
a bad vibration and I had to come in real slow. That was the distance we
were behind at the end.
``We didn't know which tire was giving us the vibration, so we had to
change all four. Jeff only took two (tires), so we thought we might be
able to chase him down. But I guess I just used up the tires or
Ricky Rudd, also stretching his gas, finished third, followed by Ted
Musgrave, Jimmy Spencer and Bobby Labonte.
``We thought Gordon and Labonte were going to have to pit,'' Rudd said.
``We weren't sure that we could make it, but we figured if we did, we
were going to win.''
A crowd estimated at 85,000 was on hand for the first Winston Cup race
in Southern California since Riverside International Raceway, a road
course about 15 miles east of Fontana, closed in 1988.
It was the first Winston Cup oval race in Southern California since
1980, when Ontario Motor Speedway - which was only about four miles from
Roger Penske's new track - closed.
Gordon, who won $144,600, averaged 155.025 mph in the race slowed by
just four caution periods.
Hut Stricklin and Greg Sacks hit the wall in separate incidents, but a few abrasions sustained by Stricklin were the only injuries reported.
HARRISON, N.Y. -- Tiger Woods says he has sought opinions on how to deal
with the crush of crowds and media attention he encounters, but is
having trouble getting useful advice.
``It's hard because no one's really dealt with the magnitude of this,''
Woods said after Sunday's final round of the Buick Classic at the
Westchester Country Club.
``Arnold (Palmer) has given me some advice, but he's never dealt with
the volume of people that I have to deal with,'' Woods said. ``Plus the
generations have changed, too. People are not as courteous as they used
Woods' golfing buddy Michael Jordan has also made some suggestions, but
Woods said that when Jordan is at a basketball venue, he can more easily
stay away from crowds than Woods can on a golf course.
``People have a direct effect on how I play,'' Woods said. ``They can
and sometimes they do. It's a little more difficult. It's a little more
with the public. Then again, it gives you the personal touch as well.
There are both positives and negatives.''
The subject of galleries was on everyone's mind at the Buick Classic as
Woods attracted thousands of raucous fans in each of his four rounds,
despite finishing 19 shots behind winner Ernie Els. Jeff Maggert, his
playing partner on Thursday and Friday, referred to Woods' galleries as
containing some ``crazies'' who obnoxiously yelled at their hero
throughout each round.
``They can be a little difficult,'' Woods said. ``I think a lot of it
has to do with the fact that, one, it's hot. And, two, they're selling
alcohol. That's not a good combo. When you get that combination, it can
be a little tough on us as players.''
Woods noted that organizers of the Byron Nelson Classic in Texas, where
the weather often is as hot and humid as it was at the Buick Classic
Saturday and Sunday, don't serve alcohol for fear of contributing to the
rowdiness of some fans.
Woods said the more boisterous crowds he attracts reflects changes in
society and sports as a whole since the days when Palmer and Jack
Nicklaus were young golfing phenomenons.
``We are definitely not as respectful as we used to be,'' he said.
``It's definitely changed, and you can see it out here. When we need to
have it quiet, sometimes it's not quite. People aren't courteous, and
they want to stand out and make some funny comments. They think it's
funny, but to us, we take it a little differently.''
Woods said he has discussed some ideas for speeding up play with PGA
tour officials. A major problem continues to be with having to wait for
news photographers to get into position before he can play his shots, he
Woods said Sunday he's going home to Florida to fish, rest and get away
from golf for a while.
``I'm going to be relaxing,'' he said. ``I'm not going to pick up a club
for a while. I've had enough golf for a bit. And I'm going to get my
mind squared away and get my focus back.''
This was the fifth tournament Woods has played in six weeks.
After hanging out around his home in Orlando, Fla., Woods plans to play
at the Western Open near Chicago starting July 3, then go to the British
Open two weeks later.
Despite failing to break par Sunday for the 11th time in his last 12
tournament rounds, Woods said his game is improving.
``Granted, I didn't play that well,'' he said. ``But I learned a lot
about my game and the status of it right now. It's not quite there, but
I made some good improvement though my scores didn't show it. Swing-wise, I wasn't that far off.''
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers lost the season series to Seattle
10-3 last year, but still won the AL West by 4½ games over the Mariners.
Seattle swept Texas over the weekend at The Ballpark in Arlington to
take a 5-game lead and leave the Rangers wondering if they can recreate
the magic of the 1996 season.
The Mariners are 5-1 against Texas this year and have won 12 of the last
14 games between the two clubs. The Rangers are a miserable 5-18
lifetime in their own new ballpark against the Mariners.
It was the only third time in Mariners history that the club had swept a
four-game road series.
Seattle scored three runs in the second inning after a critical error by
Benji Gil for a gift-wrapped 6-4 victory over the Rangers on Sunday.
``It was a great weekend for us in Texas. Let's enjoy this,'' Mariner
manager Lou Piniella said of the sweep. ``We got good pitching, good
hitting, and nice plays in the field.''
Texas first baseman Will Clark was bitter about the way the team lost.
``It's not like we're playing bad baseball,'' Clark said. ``We make one
little error and it leads to three runs. Baseball is a game of luck, and
we don't have any right now.''
Jeff Fassero (7-3) allowed seven hits and three runs, one earned, in
seven innings. John Burkett (5-6), who gave up five runs and 10 hits,
took the loss.
``The sweep was important for us because it gives us some breathing room
in our division,'' Fassero said. ``We know what we have to do to beat
these guys. It puts more pressure on them. Our starting rotation has
been solidified and we have tough hitting. Randy Johnson on the first
night got us rolling. Everything fed off that.''
Burkett pointed out what happened last year when Seattle won the series
but lost the division.
``They've whipped up on us the last two years and we still won a
division title last year,'' Burkett said. ``I expect this team will
respond in a positive way.''
Bobby Ayala came on in the eighth inning after Fassero walked the
leadoff hitter to get his sixth save with two innings of work.
``Bobby did a good job of holding Texas off,'' Piniella said. ``Texas is
a good comeback team. This was a big game. We left here five games in
front after winning some hard fought games. They were all competitive
Jay Buhner, who knocked in five runs in a 14-8 win Saturday night, had
three homers and seven RBIs in the series as first-place Seattle pulled
five games ahead of third-place Texas in the AL West.
Griffey got his major league-leading 29th homer in the top of the ninth
inning when he hit an 0-2 pitch off Ed Vosberg 401 feet over the center
After Edgar Martinez singled to open the second inning, Paul Sorrento
hit a hard grounder at Gil's feet. He booted the ball, then threw wild
at second. Dan Wilson followed with a double to score Martinez, and Russ
Davis and Alvaro Espinoza each had RBI singles.
``We opened the door and they took advantage of it,'' said Texas manager
Johnny Oates. ``We booted the ball and they made us pay. In these four
games, Seattle did every single thing it had to do to win.
``For us, it was something different every night, from baserunning
mistakes to costly errors. It's not like we're getting blown out. We're
just not clicking on all cylinders.''
Wilson said ``it's always important if you sweep a series against the
team next to you in the series. But the sweep won't mean anything if we
don't follow up.''
Texas got a run back in the fifth when Ivan Rodriguez tripled and scored
on an error by second baseman Joey Cora on Rusty Greer's grounder. A
double by Will Clark and single by Damon Buford brought in another run
in the sixth. Clark doubled across a run in the eighth and scored on a
single by Lee Stevens.
Buhner hit his 20th homer in the sixth, a 400-foot shot to left, to give
the Mariners a 4-1 lead. The Mariners' fifth run came in the seventh on
an RBI single by Martinez.
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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