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Irvan drives Yates team to repeat at Richmond

Ernie Irvan picked up where Davey Allison left off, running away with the Pontiac Excitement 400 Sunday at Richmond International Raceway.

Last year's race was the last won by Allison before his death in July in a helicopter crash.

Irvan, who took over as driver of the Robert Yates Racing team in September, led the 300-mile, 400-lap race six times for 189 laps, including the final 21 on the }-mile oval, for his first win of the season and third with the team. Irvan has three short track wins among his 10 career victories. He won $66,175 and averaged 98.334 mph in the race slowed by eight caution flags for a total of 51 laps.

Irvan moved past Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin into the lead in NASCAR's Winston Cup stock car series. After three races, Irvan has 520 points, followed by six-time and defending series champion Dale Earnhardt with 467 and Marlin with 461.

"We talked about it early in the year and said if we have a winning car, let's go out and try to win with it, and if we have a fifth-place car, let's try to run fifth with it," Irvan said. "Today we had the winning car."

Irvan and Rusty Wallace, coming off a win last week at Rockingham, N.C., swapped the lead for all but one lap from Lap 153 on. Wallace led three times for 96 laps, losing the top spot for the final time on lap 334 when Irvan's Ford Thunderbird dove past heading into the first turn. Terry Labonte led Lap 379, but Irvan regained the lead on Lap 380 and went on to a 1.7-second victory.

"You know, it was kind of a race in the pits," Irvan said. "Rusty had a great race in the pits, and our guys held up to the competition. He only beat us out of the pits once or twice and we came out on top when it counted the most."

Wallace, also driving a Ford, kept alive his streak of finishing no worse than second in nine events on short tracks _ ovals shorter than one mile.

"Our car was just too tight," Wallace said. "We just kept working on it and just missed the sprint setup a tiny bit."

Prudhomme wins

Top Fuel title

BAYTOWN, Texas _ Don Prudhomme, in his final drag racing season, won the Top Fuel title Sunday in the $1.3-million NHRA Slick 50 Nationals at Houston Raceway Park.

Prudhomme, 53, upset new national record holder Scott Kalitta of Bellevue, Mich., for his 47th career win. Prudhomme had not won in 27 events dating to August 1992.

Prudhomme traveled the quarter mile in 4.881 seconds at 294.50 mph to beat Kalitta's 4.924 at 274.55 mph. Earlier Sunday, Kalitta had the quickest time in NHRA history, 4.726 seconds.

Al Hofmann of Umatilla won the Funny Car division and Warren Johnson of Duluth, Ga., won the Pro Stock class.