Martin avoids trouble, then steals Goody's win

R. Wallace blows lead with late tire change

April 10, 2000|By ORLANDO SENTINEL

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Mark Martin survived the wrecking yard that was Martinsville Speedway yesterday to inherit victory in the Goody's 500 when there was "absolutely no way," he said. "We stole it; I'll take it."

His teammate, Jeff Burton, called his own second-place finish "a felony," and added that "we might have to spend a few hours in jail before we go home."

But they should be acquitted on the grounds that Rusty Wallace and his pit crew gave the race away, blowing dominance.

Wallace led 341 of the first 435 laps before crew chief Robin Pemberton called a four-tire pit stop under caution. Nine other teams either changed only two tires or didn't pit at all, and Wallace was shuffled back to 10th place, where he finished.

Martin, Burton and Wallace were all in Ford Tauruses.

All in all, it was was the wildest day in 21 years on the little .526-mile oval that is the bumpiest, most grinding track on the Winston Cup circuit.

Not even the track-record-tying 17 caution flags told the story. There were numerous other spins and slams that NASCAR officials ignored whenever the wrecking cars could keep rolling and didn't scatter debris on the track.

Said third-place Michael Waltrip, remorseful over knocking John Andretti out of third on lap 495 in one of the incidents that didn't even bring out the yellow, "When you cram this many cars [43] onto this little track, [stuff] happens."

Martin became the eighth different driver to win in eight races on the tour. That's record parity for the start of a NASCAR season.

"For my [Roush Racing] team to win here with me as driver is big," he said, "because I'm terrible here and I know it."

When Wallace made his fatefully long pit stop under the 15th caution, Martin inherited the lead with 64 laps to go when he elected not to pit at all. He'd pitted during the previous yellow, 35 laps earlier. And the set of tires he'd received that time felt superbly balanced to him.

As the laps waned, Burton radioed Martin to "slow down, take it easy; I wasn't going to pass him," Burton said. "I couldn't."

Neither driver had challenged Wallace before his four-tire stop. He started on the pole and commanded the first half of the race before a cut tire on lap 253 forced him to pit and lose two laps.

Even so, Wallace's Taurus was strong enough to make up one of the laps simply by running down the leaders. And he regained the lead on lap 326 by staying out while the other contenders were pitting under the green flag.

Wallace accepted a share of the blame with Pemberton for the four-tire call.

"I really thought with 65 to go we needed to put tires on," he said.

1. (21) Mark Martin, Ford, 500, $104,650.

2. (5) Jeff Burton, Ford, 500, $91,150.

3. (34) Michael Waltrip, Chevy, 500, $79,850.

4. (11) Jeff Gordon, Chevy, 500, $65,530.

5. (28) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 500, $65,125.

6. (37) Tony Stewart, Pontiac, 500, $52,825.

7. (24) Jeremy Mayfield, Ford, 500, $43,575.

8. (9) Bill Elliott, Ford, 500, $44,550.

9. (17) Dale Earnhardt, Chevy, 500, $48,550.

10. (1) Rusty Wallace, Ford, 500, $64,100.

11. (18) Ward Burton, Pontiac, 500, $55,485.

12. (13) Bobby Labonte, Pontiac, 500, $48,475.

13. (12) Ken Schrader, Pontiac, 500, $31,650.

14. (26) John Andretti, Pontiac, 500, $46,050.

15. (23) Robert Pressley, Ford, 499, $34,050.

16. (25) Johnny Benson, Pontiac, 499, $30,650.

17. (33) Joe Nemechek, Chevy, 499, $38,850.

18. (10) Bobby Hamilton, Chevy, 499, $37,625.

19. (3) Mike Skinner, Chevy, 498, $38,225.

20. (6) Jerry Nadeau, Chevy, 498, $40,325.

21. (31) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 498, $38,625.

22. (7) Ricky Rudd, Ford, 497, $36,325.

23. (27) Terry Labonte, Chevy, 497, $42,625.

24. (8) Sterling Marlin, Chevy, 497, $35,825.

25. (19) Steve Park, Chevy, 497, $35,925.

26. (22) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevy, 496, $33,975.

27. (38) Chad Little, Ford, 496, $34,975.

28. (40) Jimmy Spencer, Ford, 494, $34,675.

29. (41) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 493, $35,275.

30. (30) Rich Bickle, Chevy, 492, $34,675.

31. (14) Ricky Craven, Chevy, 492, $22,975.

32. (35) Scott Pruett, Ford, 492, $23,375.

33. (43) G. Bradberry, Chevy, 477, r. end, $25,075.

34. (39) Kevin Lepage, Ford, 469, $30,375.

35. (33) Mike Bliss, Pontiac, 464, $22,250.

36. (4) Brett Bodine, Ford, 454, $22,675.

37. (32) Kenny Irwin, Chevy, 447, $30,050.

38. (16) Kyle Petty, Pontiac, 441, handling, $29,925.

39. (15) S. Compton, Ford, 439, eng. fail., $21,800.

40. (42) R. Gordon, Ford, 424, r. end, $21,650.

41. (20) D. Blaney, Pontiac, 400, handling, $21,525.

42. (2) Kenny Wallace, Chevy, 296, $31,400.

43. (36) D. Waltrip, Ford, 146, handling, $21,275.

Time of race: 3 hours, 41 minutes, 45 seconds. Margin of victory: 1.505 seconds. Average speed: 71.161 mph. Lead changes: 14 among 8 drivers. Caution laps: 17 for 112 laps. Lap leaders: Rusty Wallace 1-50, Mike Skinner 51-57, Wallace 58-104, Ward Burton 105-112, Wallace 113-143, Bobby Labonte 144-149, Wallace 150-253, Dale Earnhardt 257-298, Skinner 299-301, Ken Schrader 302-309, Michael Waltrip 310, Schrader 311-325, Wallace 326-436, Mark Martin 437-500. Point standings: Bobby Labonte 1246, Mark Martin 1210, Ward Burton 1159, Jeff Burton 1104, Dale Earnhardt 1102, Rusty Wallace 1084, Dale Jarrett 1050, Ricky Rudd 1004, Jeremy Mayfield 994, Tony Stewart 988.

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