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.

GOODY'S BODY PAIN 500 UNOFFICIAL RESULTS

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 FamilyClick.com 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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