Earnhardt's late gamble fails to knock Wallace off winning roll

June 13, 1994|By Lori Van Lonkhuyzen | Lori Van Lonkhuyzen,Sun Staff Writer

LONG POND, Pa. -- Rusty Wallace simply had too much going in his favor to lose this one.

With less than a lap to go, Wallace inched past Dale Earnhardt to win the Winston Cup UAW/GM Teamwork 500 yesterday at Pocono International Raceway.

The start of the race was delayed two hours because of rain and fog and the first 15 laps were run under caution because of wet spots on the track.

However, that hardly hindered Wallace, the pole-sitter, who led 141 of the 200 laps. Wallace held more than a 20-second lead over second-place Earnhardt with seven laps to go and appeared to have wrapped up the race easily.

However, that's when things got complicated.

Wallace pitted, along with Earnhardt and several other drivers, when the caution flag went up after Mark Martin blew a tire on lap 194. Earnhardt's crew took a chance, replacing only his right-side tires, while Wallace received four new ones. Earnhardt emerged from the pits ahead of Wallace to take the lead.

The caution flag stayed up for five laps after officials had trouble lining up the cars on the restart. When the caution was lifted, Wallace had just one lap to regain his once huge lead. Wallace closed in on Earnhardt, passed him on the inside and held on for the win.

"It was a pretty hair-raising experience," Wallace said. "I had a lot of work to do. It would have been pretty disgusting after leading all day to lose like that."

Richard Childress, owner of Earnhardt's car, said: "We figured that [two-tire change] was the best shot we had to win the race, so that's what we did. If we could have got a good restart, we would have been OK on those two new tires for one lap. Dale just couldn't get it wound up on the restart. The car bogged down on him and that's how Rusty got up there and passed us. The tires were not a factor. We would have been pretty good for two or three laps."

The victory added to Wallace's recent hot streak, giving him his second win in a row following last week's Budweiser 500 win at Dover, Del. It was the 35th of his career.

After nabbing the pole with a track record qualifying speed of 164.558 mph, Wallace cruised to his fourth win of the year, giving him the most wins of any Winston Cup driver this season. The win also gave him four top-five finishes in his past four races.

One of those top-five finishes was a second place at Charlotte, when Jeff Gordon beat Wallace in a similar caution situation two weeks ago.

"The team's on a high," Wallace said. "We started out by winning Dover . . . and then [sitting] on the pole here. We win the race and now we're going to go home and crash. Right now, we're doing a lot of things that make sense."

Despite the win, Wallace was not able to move up from third place in the Winston Cup point standings. Wallace gained seven points on second-place Earnhardt and 34 points on leader Ernie Irvan, who finished seventh.

Wallace was expected to be challenged by No. 2 qualifier Ricky Rudd. However, Rudd faded early as he lost a cylinder, and placed 21st.

"I can't complain too much, because that's the first engine that's gone sour on us all year," Rudd said. "I thought [the car] was going to race better than it did. It was a seventh-place car."

Chuck Bown was airlifted to Lehigh Valley Medical Center in Allentown as a precautionary measure after an early accident. No injuries were found, but Bown was kept overnight for observation. Bown collided with Sterling Marlin and hit the wall on lap 57. He walked from his car to an ambulance, but was groggy. Marlin also hit the wall in the accident, but was unhurt.

1. (1) Rusty Wallace, Ford Thunderbird, 200, $84.525, 128.801; 2. (19) Dale Earnhardt, Chevrolet Lumina, 200, $46,425; 3. (5) Ken Schrader, Chevrolet Lumina, 200, $33,400; 4. (26) Morgan Shepherd, Ford Thunderbird, 200, $24,900; 5. (3) Mark Martin, Ford Thunderbird, 200, $30,400; 6. (4) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet Lumina, 200, $23,505; 7. (7) Ernie Irvan, Ford Thunderbird, 200, $25,705; 8. (6) Brett Bodine, Ford Thunderbird, 200, $19,405; 9. (39) Rick Mast, Ford Thunderbird, 200, $18,405; 10. (16) Bill Elliott, Ford Thunderbird, 200, $20,155.

11. (10) Michael Waltrip, Pontiac Grand Prix, 200, $17,355; 12. (14) Kyle Petty, Pontiac Grand Prix, 199, $20,805; 13. (23) Hut Stricklin, Ford Thunderbird, 200, $12,805; 14. (28) Todd Bodine, Ford Thunderbird, 199, $12,505; 15. (9) Ted Musgrave, Ford Thunderbird, 199, $16,555; 16. (24) Harry Gant, Chevrolet Lumina, 199, $15,905; 17. (13) Wal1y Dallenbach Jr., Pontiac Grand Prix, 198, crash, $11,705; 18. (30) Geoff Bodine, Ford Thunderbird, 198, $15,505; 19. (15) Terry Labonte, Chevrolet Lumina, 198, $18,755; 20. (22) Dale Jarrett, Chevrolet Lumina, 198, $20,680.

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