Martin wins at Martinsville

Two tyres, four tyres, no tyres and rolling tyres were the theme of the Goody's Body Pain 500 as NASCAR's Winston Cup tour tried to come to terms with the venerable - and short - Martinsville Speedway

Martin wins at Martinsville

The winner of a battle of attrition involving rubber, sheet metal, brakes and batteries was an improbable Mark Martin.

The Ford veteran dislikes the track and wasn't much of a factor for 450 laps. But short pitting before a caution put him in front of the day-long contenders and that was the only way to win a race that featured an event record 17 cautions.

Jeff Burton, Michael Waltrip, Jeff Gordon (his first top-five finish in 14 starts) and Dale Jarrett rounded out the leaders. Tony Stewart, Jeremy Mayfield, Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace finished the top ten.

Martin reserved all praise for his crew chief and Burton.

"We were junk all weekend and after practice we went to them on our knees and begged them for what setup they had," said the 41-year old Arkansas native, who hasn't won since the Fall Dover race. "This being such an odd racetrack, we ended up with the right tyre strategy to win."

An additional subplot at this, the oldest track on the circuit, was a new rule requiring teams to move tires out of the way as a car got service.

NASCAR's attempt to make pit road safer turned Crew Chiefs into lawyers arguing their case as first Jeff Gordon, then Ward Burton and a half dozen others were assessed penalties.

This should have been Rusty Wallace's race. The polesitter dominated to such a degree he almost clinched a laps-led bonus at the halfway point.

But that's when hot brakes melted the bead on his right front tire, nearly sending him toward the wall.

He saved it, pitted and went two laps down, then charged back into the fray - reclaiming one lap - all in 20 circuits. He wasn't through.

Nine cautions slowed the race for 54 laps by halftime. Most were fairly harmless spins that forced close-quarters restarts and more cautions.

Teams chose to pit three times before the first gas window for fresh tires. Some took two for track position, Ward Burton decided not to pit at all, and when the cautions were slower waving, teams put on four tires.

A pit road that snakes two thirds of this half-mile track and the new tyre rule kept NASCAR police busy handing out tyre fines and speed tickets.

One definitive caution was #10 on lap 309 when Jimmy Spencer and Tony Stewart got together and sealed Wallace back on the lead lap.

Most of the field had just pitted and Wallace, out of cycle with the rest, was able to snatch third place with a quick pit and gas. The subsequent restart had Ken Schrader, Michael Waltrip and Wallace leading on the scoreboard but deep in the pack on the track, with other lead lap cars ahead of them.

Shortly after the green waved on lap 318, Wallace got by Schrader and in just 74 laps went from catastrophe to leader.

After 350 laps, Wallace led Waltrip, Schrader, Earnhardt and Jarrett. The inverted field was righted on lap 365 when Gordon tapped Bobby Labonte into a spin and the 11th caution.
All pitted in anticipation it would be a run straight to the chequers.

Not a chance.

A total of 17 cars took the restart on lap 371, Wallace pacing Waltrip, Earnhardt, Schrader and Ricky Rudd. Two quick cautions signaled the return of yellow fever, with #13 pushing Jarrett into Rudd into Bodine - and a wicked dash by Bobby Labonte to successfully regain a lap lost moments before in an earlier restart.

Rudd, a top-five driver all day, saw dreams of victory crunched on all sides and he lost three laps getting moving and race-worthy.

Wallace and Earnhardt, two war horses desperately seeking mid-life success, clung to the top two spots through another caution, but fell to 10th and 11th in pitting for rubber after a 15th yellow.

Martin took the green on lap 444, trailing Burton, John Andretti, Waltrip and Bill Elliott.

Wallace pitted for new tires again during the 16th caution, and in his charge was involved in two spins, the second forcing a 17th caution as Bobby Hamilton got righted from a twin spin with the 2 car with 12 to go.

The last restart was under the ten-lap rule and it was like a Saturday evening compressed into three minutes. None of the jostling merited a caution and Martin became the 8th winner of the young 8-race season.


Fn St No. Driver Sponsor Make Laps Points

1 21 6 Mark Martin MaxLife/Cummins Ford 500 5 180

2 5 99 Jeff Burton Exide Batteries Ford 500 170

3 34 7 Michael Waltrip NationsRent Chev 500 5 170

4 11 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chev 500 160

5 28 88 Dale Jarrett Quality Care Ford 500 155

6 37 20 Tony Stewart Home Depot Pont 500 150

7 24 12 Jeremy Mayfield Mobil 1 Ford 500 146

8 9 94 Bill Elliott McDonald's Ford 500 142

9 17 3 Dale Earnhardt GM Goodwrench Chev 500 5 143

10 1 2 Rusty Wallace Miller Lite Ford 500 10 144

11 18 22 Ward Burton Caterpillar Pont 500 5 135

12 13 18 Bobby Labonte Interstate Pont 500 5 132

13 12 36 Ken Schrader M&M's Pont 500 5 129

14 26 43 John Andretti STP/Cheerios Pont 500 121

15 23 77 Robert Pressley Jasper Ford 499 118

16 25 10 Johnny Benson Lycos Pont 499 115

17 29 33 Joe Nemechek Oakwood Homes Chev 499 112

18 9 4 Bobby Hamilton Kodak Film Chev 499 109

19 3 31 Mike Skinner Lowe's Chev 498 5 111

20 6 25 Jerry Nadeau Michael Holigan Chev 498 103

21 7 28 Ricky Rudd Texaco/Havoline Ford 497 100

22 27 5 Terry Labonte Kellogg's Chev 497 97

23 8 40 Sterling Marlin Coors Light Chev 497 94

24 19 1 Steve Park Pennzoil Chev 497 91

25 22 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr Budweiser Chev 496 88

26 38 97 Chad Little John Deere Ford 496 85

27 40 26 Jimmy Spencer Big Kmart Ford 464 82

28 41 21 Elliott Sadler Citgo Ford 493 79

29 30 60 Rich Bickle Power Team Chev 492 76

30 14 50 Ricky Craven Midwest Transit Chev 492 73

31 35 32 Scott Pruett Tide Ford 492 70

32 31 17 Matt Kenseth DeWalt Tools Ford 488 67

33 43 41 Gary Bradberry Big Daddy's Chev 478 64

34 39 16 Kevin LePage Ford 469 61

35 33 27 Mike Bliss Pfizer/Viagra Pont 464 58

36 4 11 Brett Bodine Ralph's Ford 454 55

37 42 42 Kenny Irwin BellSouth Chev 447 52

38 15 44 Kyle Petty Hot Wheels Pont 441 49

39 16 9 Stacy Compton Kodiak Ford 439 46

40 42 13 Robby Gordon Menards Ford 424 43

41 20 93 Dave Blaney Amoco Pont 400 40

42 2 55 Kenny Wallace Square D Chev 296 37

43 36 66 Darrell Waltrip Route 66 Ford 146 34

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