DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Sure, Dale Jarrett could slip back to the rest of the pack someday. It might not be this year, though. And it certainly wasn't going to start Saturday night.

The Winston Cup points leader started the second half of the season with a victory in the Pepsi 400 over Dale Earnhardt that was ensured after an accident brought out the yellow flag with two laps remaining.

Just moments after he drove his red, white and blue Ford across the finish line, an Independence Day fireworks show began. Then Jarrett basked in the glow of the fact that, since 1993, no driver leading the points race after the Pepsi 400 has failed to win the title.

He left Daytona International Speedway with a much better feeling than the last time. During the Daytona 500 in February, Jarrett exited his car dazed and upset, suspected as the culprit in a multicar wreck that knocked him and several contenders out of the hunt.

It was the only sour note of his season _ he hasn't finished worse than 11th since _ and Jarrett made amends for it in style, widening the 157-point lead he carried into the second half of the season as he seeks his first series title.

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