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MARLIN TAKES CRASH COURSE IN TRANSOUTH

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- The treacherous Darlington International Raceway ate so many contenders, all Sterling Marlin had to do was pick up the crumbs to win the chaotic TranSouth 400.

Pole-sitter Jeff Gordon dominated the race Sunday until he was taken out by a crash -- leaving only Dale Earnhardt to battle Marlin -- on a day that bedeviled the top stock car drivers.

Higher speeds on the newly repaved track led to dozens of skirmishes involving half the field, resulting in a record 15 cautions.

"We felt like we could get to the front when we needed to," Marlin said after his third career victory, second this season and fifth in as many races by the new and unbeaten Chevrolet Monte Carlo. "We kept after him (Earnhardt) because he was loose . . . and then passed him."

Marlin admitted to some caution, in part because his crew kept reminding him of the carnage.

"They kept telling me it's not the time to race yet," he said. "A lot of good cars got knocked out early, and we had to make sure to run on the lead, not hit anything and finish the race."

After the race, NASCAR impounded Marlin's car, the Ford of Derrike Cope and the Pontiac of Bobby Hamilton. They were sent out for wind-tunnel testing to determine if the Monte Carlo has an unfair aerodynamic advantage.

The sanctioning body has been deluged by complaints, particularly from Ford teams. No Thunderbird has finished better than third this season -- where Ted Musgrave wound up Sunday -- after 20 victories in 31 races in 1994.

The cars to be tested -- chosen for lack of sheet metal damage -- were shipped to Marietta, Ga., NASCAR spokesman Kevin Triplett said. After testing there Tuesday, the process will be repeated Wednesday in Detroit.

Gordon flexed his muscle from the start, giving up the lead for short periods mostly because of pit stops. But he and Bobby Labonte, also among the strongest cars on the track, were taken out together when they tangled with the lapped car of rookie Randy LaJoie as the green flag fell to close the 11th caution of the day on lap 200.

Labonte fractured his shoulder in the crash.

The rash of accidents -- which also removed Terry Labonte, Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace from the mix -- resulted in 87 caution laps. They slowed the winner's average speed to 111.392 mph.

Earnhardt, the two-time defending race champion, failed in his bid to win the event for the seventh time. That would would have given him a record-tying 10 victories at the egg-shaped track.

By finishing second, Earnhardt lost only five points from his lead in the Winston Cup race. He leads Marlin, 860-793.

Berger declared winner

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- The first and second finishers in the Brazilian Grand Prix -- defending champion Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard -- were disqualified for using improper fuel. Gerhard Berger of Austria, third in a Ferrari, was declared the winner in the Formula One season opener.

Schumacher, a German driving for Benetton-Renault, outlasted Damon Hill and Coulthard of Williams-Renault to finish first.

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