It is no wonder Dale Jarrett is smiling so wide these days. Life is treating the Winston Cup points leader well, so much so he doesn't want to change a thing.
"I don't want anybody to shake me to wake me up," Jarrett said.
Who can blame him?
After winning the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, his fourth victory of the season, some wonder if Jarrett might not only win his first championship, but maybe even match, or better, defending champ Jeff Gordon's amazing 13-win run of a season ago.
"We'll have to see if Dale wins 13 races to see if he is doing better than Jeff did last year," said race runner-up Bobby Labonte, who is third in points behind Jarrett and Mark Martin. "I'm not sure if they're dominant. But when they're on, they're on."
Saturday, they were on.
Jarrett's 3.351-second victory margin was the widest in Brickyard 400 history. Still, even he isn't so sure he can accomplish what Gordon did in 1998.
"They won a lot of races," Jarrett said. "I don't see ourselves doing that. I hope that maybe we will, and we'll win the rest of them _ we've got a good start on it.
"We've had the kind of breaks that we saw those guys get through last season. We've had good racing luck," added Jarrett, who overcame a scrape with the Brickyard wall early in the race to post his second victory at Indy. "We've made a lot of things happen whenever we weren't the best car, and you have to give the crew a lot of credit for that. They don't give up. They keep working, and that's what you see out of Jeff's team, too, so I guess there are a lot of comparisons."
To get 13, though, Jarrett would have to win nine of the season's final 14 races. Gordon won nine of 1998's last 16, so who knows?
"He's on a pretty good roll right now," Gordon said of Jarrett, who has won two of his last four starts and three of his last seven. "He's been doing great. It's like they were just biding their time getting those top fives early in the season, and all of a sudden everything started clicking for him.
"Boom. Now they're getting wins, and they're doing a great job. D.J. and that team deserve it."
ROUGH WEEK: Despite placing seventh Saturday and the fact that he has been the highest-finishing Winston Cup rookie in 19 of 20 races this season, it seems perhaps the pressure is mounting on Tony Stewart.
The spotlight was on Stewart, an Indiana native, much of last week, one which he is happy has passed.
"I'm ready to go home," Stewart, still searching for his first Cup win, said afterward. "I'm tired of the hype and the bull, and ready to go home and relax."
SCRAP IT: Ted Musgrave, who finished a disappointing 35th, was none too pleased with his No. 75 Ford.
"There was a race out there? Not for us," Musgrave said. "I think that's the third or fourth time we've raced that car, and every time it has a terrible push in it. It was the same thing (Saturday).
"So I think we'll just have to take this thing home, and the only thing this thing is going to see is a torch right now."
BIG BUCKS: With his third-place finish Saturday, Gordon surpassed the $4-million mark in winnings for 1999.
This marks the fourth time in the past five years Gordon, who has won more than any other driver this season, has hit that plateau. Last season, he won a career-high $9,306,584.
Also Saturday, Jeff Burton surpassed the $3-million mark, and Jarrett and Labonte went over $2-million.
BRIC-A-BRAC: Thirty-nine cars were running at the finish Saturday, a Brickyard 400 record. Jarrett has led 186 career Brickyard laps, second only to Gordon's 277. Gordon, fourth-place Martin and eighth-place Rusty Wallace have five top-10 finishes in six Brickyards. With Bill Elliott finishing one lap down, Ken Schrader is the only driver to complete every Brickyard lap run.
CART: Patrick Carpentier will miss this weekend's race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington after tests Monday revealed he sustained a small vertebra fracture in Sunday's crash in the Grand Prix of Detroit.