Wallace grabs 50th win

Rusty Wallace notched a landmark 50th victory at the track where he won his first and last, in a bruising 500-lap NASCAR Winston Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Wallace grabs 50th win

Johnny Benson, Ward Burton, Penske teammate Jeremy Mayfield and Terry Labonte rounded out the top five in a field that shuffled more than a Canasta deck of cards from lap to lap.

"I can't believe I finally got it," said Wallace, who looked every bit as excited as when he won his NASCAR championship in 1989.

He did it in what everyone expects here, a caution-plagued wreckfest. And he got the magic number before relative newcomer Jeff Gordon, with whom he was tied at 49.

Wallace drove a reverse victory lap to mark the occasion and sounded incredulous when asked if he would party later.

"Are you kidding? We're sponsored by a beer company for Christ's sakes! When all the excitement calms down, we're going down to my motor home."

The delicate, early-season championship points shuffled.

Bobby Labonte holds onto the lead thanks to a sixth place finish, followed by Ward Burton, Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt.

Bristol is one of two remaining tracks at which Winston Cup points contenders can only hope to survive and get on with their lives.

Like the paperclip-shaped Martinsville, "Thunder Valley" is as much a points mixing bowl as speed palace.

A dominant Jeff Gordon is brusquely bumped so Earnhardt can show his stuff for two laps.

Or perhaps the Penske cars of Mayfield and Wallace show mid-race muscle and pace the pack while Earnhardt's crew is behind the wall repairing an ohsofastwreck that ruins his day.

The story of Bristol changes in each of the 1600 left turns made by the drivers.

Polesitter Steve Park does a nice job at the front for 40 laps, Michael Waltrip looks like he can break his losing jinx and the back-pit disadvantage but shines no longer than a firefly, Darrell Waltrip starts high and touches the lead and disappears.

That was just a taste of this day on the fastest 0.533 mile oval on the circuit, fittingly launched with a first-lap caution when Earnhardt Senior tapped Elliott Sadler who knocked Earnhardt Jr out of competition.

Or Tony Stewart's bullet-proof Pontiac engine cracking and spewing water on lap 72. And so it went.

The race didn't settle down but the survivors were apparent by lap 310 when Gordon took the lead after the fifth caution and pit stop, ahead of Mayfield, Wallace, Park and Bobby Labonte.

Seventeen cars were on the lead lap, all of them The Usual Suspects aside from those who were Bristol-ized earlier.

A Robby Gordon spin offered a pit opportunity during caution 6 on lap 362. Mayfield showed he was ready for win #2 on the lap 367 restart when, for the second time, he got by Gordon on a restart; Earnhardt Sr returned, down 152 laps and trying to cling to the top-five in points.

Just 34 laps later - only 17 miles - the leaders pitted thanks to a Jeff Fuller caution, and the action turned to the pits.

Gordon tapped a tire exiting his pit stall and multi-pitted for sheet metal troubles.

He fell to 17th and never had a top-five car again. Mayfield took the green on lap 392, giving way to teammate Wallace a few circuits later, Labonte and Dale Jarrett lurking behind awaiting opportunity.

"Jeremy moved over to give me leader points," said Wallace, "but then he couldn't get by and that's when I knew our car had come in."

After only 19 laps of green, Earnhardt Jr was sent into the wall during tight racing - and the leaders pitted again. This time a pit shuffle, and Ward Burton, Jarrett, Wallace, Labonte and Terry Labonte took the green on lap 418.

Jarrett was tired of waiting and took the point until Wallace made it an issue and ducked low for the lead. Jarrett would never be a contender again.

Fuller brought out the ninth caution a few laps later and Martin spun doing avoidance.

After pitting for tyres, NASCAR's most intense driver was a lap down, his chance for joy over. NASCAR waved the tenth caution for debris moments later.

Cautions continued erupting every 12 laps.

Wallace raced two seconds ahead of the pack while Ward Burton, Labonte, Mayfield and Jarrett pounded one another for position in his wake.

It was backmarkers, ironically, who brought out the 11th yellow with 37 laps to go. John Andretti and Dave Blaney parallel-spiraled into the wall, then Andretti was T-boned hard in the driver's door by Rick Mast.

It was a hard hit and Mast's car had to be towed away so rescuers could reach Andretti, who emerged walking. With 20 laps - about 10 miles - left to go, the dash was on when the green waved.

Wallace was in the clear, but Jarrett suffered a chassis problem and lost a lap on the track.

Terry Labonte charged out of nowhere to the top five and when the checkers waved, Wallace had his 8th win at the mixing bowl, followed by Johnny Benson, Ward Burton, Mayfield and Labonte.

Burton wins at Darlington

Previous article

Burton wins at Darlington

Next article

Earnhardt Jr wins at Texas

Earnhardt Jr wins at Texas
Load comments
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Plus

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organisation - which underlines his enduring value

Aug 31, 2021
The F1 nearly-man winding back the clock in NASCAR’s European cousin Plus

The F1 nearly-man winding back the clock in NASCAR’s European cousin

A multiple F3000 race winner, Marc Goossens was on the precipice of making Formula 1 in the 1990s - but a lack of budget left him without a path to the promised land. Turning to an illustrious racing career in sportscars, Goossens left the endurance circuit to try his hand at racing stock cars - and now calls the NASCAR Euro Series home

Jul 1, 2021
Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR Plus

Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR

There has never been a full-time British driver in the NASCAR Cup. But Alex Sedgwick, who is rising through the stock car ranks, wants that to change and could be a trailblazer for European talents to reach the top echelons of the NASCAR ladder

Feb 28, 2021
How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport Plus

How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport

It's 20 years since legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Sr died at the Daytona 500, but the legacy of his crash continues today through the pioneering safety work done by NASCAR

Feb 18, 2021
The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021 Plus

The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season

Feb 12, 2021
How a second-chance NASCAR ace is rebuilding his career Plus

How a second-chance NASCAR ace is rebuilding his career

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a shot at redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith

Feb 11, 2021
Autosport's top 5 NASCAR machines Plus

Autosport's top 5 NASCAR machines

The American stock car scene is more famous for its close racing and occasional punch-ups, but there have been some fantastic machines too. As part of Autosport's 70th anniversary celebrations in 2020, we picked out five of its best

Jan 3, 2021
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Plus

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future

Nov 17, 2020