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Tight Battle In Teamsters’ Race

Published: August 31, 2009 10:36 pm ET

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With nearly two-thirds of the season completed, the race to be the top dash-winning driver in North America is up in the air. The chase for the title is on pace to end as the tightest finish in recent history.

Entering Monday, only 24 wins separated leader Jody Jamieson from fifth-place Dave Palone. Over the past 30 years, the smallest margin of victories separating the top five drivers at the end of the season was 79. In fact, that campaign produced the tightest finish for the title as Eddie Davis edged Herve Filion, 404-403. (Filion subsequently was awarded another win so the record book now reflects a tie.)

Furthermore, since 1977 there have been only five years in which the top five drivers were separated by 100 wins or less.

This season, Jamieson leads with 489 wins, followed by Aaron Merriman with 478, Jason Bartlett with 477, Tim Tetrick with 473 and Palone with 465. Palone won the title three times previously, in 2004, 2000 and 1999, and Tetrick claimed the honor with his record 1,189 victories in 2007.

"It's not an easy thing to do," Palone said. "I don't care where you're winning races; you still have to get the job done. There are a lot of good young drivers out there no matter where you go, and a lot of good veterans, too. At no racetrack do they just hand you wins. You're earning them. You have to show up and put in your time every day."

Palone is the only driver among this year's top five who has not made at least 2,000 starts. Only nine drivers in the top 50 have driven more than 2,000 races this year.

"I know how hard they work," Palone said. "I see Aaron at The Meadows and he's grinding away."

Merriman has driven at nine different tracks this year, competing predominately at his home track of Northfield Park in Ohio and The Meadows. Jamieson, who has already surpassed his 2008 total for drives, has raced at 15 ovals.

"I don't really look (at the standings) but I have enough people in my ear telling me stuff," said Merriman, who finished sixth in last year's standings. "If it looks like it's feasible at the end of the year, then it's something I'm going to shoot for. It's looking like it might be that way.

"It would be nice to have on the resume. It's nice just to be even in the running right now. It's brought recognition, and that always helps."

Tetrick missed nearly three weeks of action in January while recovering from hip surgery and Bartlett missed time in May while representing the U.S. in the World Driving Championship in Norway.

"I think everybody would like to have the most wins at the end of the year; that's a pretty big accomplishment," said Bartlett, who entered Friday needing three wins to reach 3,000 in his career. "I'm sure everybody's going for it. At the end of the day it's about how much money you make, but it's really nice to be the top guy."

(Harness Racing Communications)

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