Wallace Wins From The Pole
August 26, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
BRISTOL, Tenn. -— Rusty Wallace picked up his second straight win of the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season late Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway with a dominating victory in the goracing.com 500.
With the win, Wallace made it a sweep of both Winston Cup races at Bristol this year. And like he did in the spring race at the .533-mile oval, Wallace drove to victory in convincing fashion to grad his fourth win of the season. In taking the 53rd win of his Winston Cup career, Wallace grabbed the lead from Ward Burton with 37 laps to go and never looked back before a record crowd of 152,000.
After taking the win and doing a Polish Victory Lap in honor of the late Alan Kulwicki who died en route to Bristol in 1993, Wallace talked about the victory which moves him into eighth on the all-time win list in NASCAR history.
"It was a total team effort," Wallace said. "We had a great car and a great engine. Plus the pit crew did a great job all night long. This was a really cool night, I just have to take my hat off to this crew. We had a lot of close calls. We’ve had a wonderful year."
In taking the victory, Wallace started on the pole and finished there in what is always one of the wildest races of the year. After winning at Michigan last Sunday, Wallace is indeed a man on a roll as he sits fifth in the points standings and not giving up hope for a second career Winston Cup title with 11 races to go.
Tony Stewart finished a close second to Wallace, running out of laps thanks to lapped traffic.
"We just got blocked in traffic," Stewart said. "That’s just a part of racing. I wish we could have got to Rusty, but just ran out of time."
Rounding out the top-five were Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt and Steve Park.
The first 100 laps of the race were all Wallace as he missed four early cautions, including one on lap 97 when Ward Burton tapped defending Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett and sent him spinning. The only laps Wallace didn’t lead came on a sequence of pit stops.
But Wallace got a little more heat on his rear bumper as the race went on, and on lap 147 Stewart slipped by when the No. 2 Miller Ford got loose exiting the fourth turn. That marked the first competitive pass for the lead all night. After starting 17th, seven-time champion and defending race winner Earnhardt slipped by Jeff Gordon to gain the fourth position.
And in the second 100 laps, it was a bit of strange racing for Bristol – no wrecks.
As a result, competitors were forced to make their second pit stops under green flag conditions. By pitting 15 laps earlier than Wallace, Sterling Marlin gained the lead until the yellow flag was thrown on lap 235 when rookie Scott Pruett nailed the second turn wall. Instead of keeping the lead, Marlin elected to stop again and put on four fresh tires which turned the lead back over to Stewart. The caution also proved to be a good break for current Winston Cup Series points leader Bobby Labonte and second place Dale Jarrett – running in mid-pack for much of the night – as they slipped up to the fifth and sixth positions.
On lap 252, Jeff Gordon radioed into crew chief Robbie Loomis that something was amiss with the engine in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. So for the third straight race, Gordon was forced to settle for a mediocre finish before the race was close to the end.
After playing a game of patience for the first half of the race, Martin took advantage of a slip on the part of Stewart to take the lead for the first time of the evening on lap 276. He held the point until lap 319 when a yellow flag was thrown for Stacy Compton who hit the fourth turn wall after a tap from David Green. Trying to avoid Compton’s car, it looked as if it could be trouble in the making for Labonte as he was tagged by Mike Skinner and sent in a solo spin down on the track apron. But serious problems were avoided as Labonte did a masterful job of not hitting anything, though he did go down one lap.
On lap 347, Wallace regained the lead from Martin thanks to a quick pit stop on the part of his Robin Pemberton-led crew.
While things went relatively smooth over the next 100 laps, the tenth caution of the night – for Ted Musgrave in turn two – brought about some high drama on pit road on lap 385. As Earnhardt was running fourth, it looked like he was going to be the only of the leaders to take on four tires and a tank of gas. But at the last minute, Wallace jerked the wheel back hard to the left and came down for service. Coming out of the pits, it looked like it was going to be a classic Bristol duel between Wallace and Earnhardt, that it until ‘The Intimidator’ had to come back down pit road to tighten up loose lug nuts.
The scariest moment of the race occurred on lap 396 when Robert Pressley’s car erupted into a ball of flames after making hard contact with the outside retaining wall in the second turn. But Pressley escaped without injury, though he was a bit angry.
Labonte retained his Winston Cup Series points lead over Jarrett.
The Winston Cup Series returns to action next Sunday at Darlington Raceway in the Southern 500. Jeff Burton is the defending race winner.
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