Nearing the halfway point of the 1998 season, Dale Jarrett still is focusing intently on the ultimate goal - the Winston Cup championship.

Jarrett's No. 88 Robert Yates Ford, which will start next to pole-winner Ward Burton's Pontiac at the front of the 43-car field in Sunday's Miller Lite 400 at Michigan Speedway, has not been as dominant thus far as it was at times last year. But the second-generation stock car star, who wound up third last season, says that is part of the team's plan."We went at it last year, led a lot of laps and didn't win a lot of races," Jarrett said Saturday. "We realized if we have a lot of top-five finishes, that's going to win us a championship."

Heading into the 400-mile race on Michigan's 2-mile, high-banked oval, everything is pretty much on schedule for Jarrett, who has eight top-five finishes and is tied with Mark Martin for fourth, trailing series leader Jeremy Mayfield by only 53 points.

"We've had a couple of 40th-place finishes - actually 40th and 41st," he said. "Too many races like that can certainly hurt your championship chances."

INTERNATIONAL RACE OF CHAMPIONS: At Brooklyn, Mich., the winning move for Jeff Burton in Saturday's International Race of Champions event actually came 16 laps before he took the lead.

Burton, running virtually unnoticed in fifth in the 12-car, all-star field at Michigan Speedway, dove past Roush Racing teammate Mark Martin and fellow NASCAR Winston Cup star Dale Earnhardt in a three-wide battle for third place heading into the first turn on lap 30 of the 50-lap race.

He went almost to the infield grass to make the move stick.