Formula One
 Saturday, August 5
Labonte finally drives over bricks first news services

Saturday, Aug. 5
The seventh running of the Brickyard 400 was marked by the domination of two drivers -- Bobby Labonte and Rusty Wallace. The pair combined to lead 131 of the 160 laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Wallace led 110 of those laps, but in the second half of the race his Ford Taurus would fade at the end of long runs. And with 15 laps remaining, Labonte pushed his Pontiac to the front and he was never threatened.

The final 114 laps of the race were run under a green flag. That left the rest of the field with little time during pit stops to adjust their cars and possibly catch either of the two front-runners. Track position was crucial. A late-race caution would have been the only opportunity to change the outcome.

So after a six-year drought, Labonte breaks the Ford and Chevy stranglehold on the Brickyard 400, giving Pontiac its first win here at Indy. Now the points leader Labonte sets his sights on another goal -- trying to become the third straight Brickyard 400 winner to go on and win the Winston Cup championship.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bobby Labonte always has run well at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but for whatever reason had never been able to win the Brickyard 400.

But Labonte played the hunter to perfection Saturday, stalking Rusty Wallace until it was time to win the Brickyard 400. Labonte finally made his move 15 laps from the end of the 160-lap race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, pulling alongside Wallace and bumping past to take the lead for good.

It was easily the biggest of Labonte's 14 wins, and it came on the day that his older brother Terry's NASCAR record of 655 consecutive starts ended because of the recurring effects of a concussion from a crash last month.

The usually low-key Bobby Labonte jumped out of his car and climbed onto the top, throwing his arms in the air in jubilation.

He then jumped to the ground and hugged teammate Tony Stewart, crew chief Jimmy Makar, his wife Donna and just about anybody on the team he could get his hands on.

"I can't think of a better day," the nearly breathless winner said. "My brother, I wish he was out there. And to beat a great driver like Rusty Wallace, it was just awesome.

"Rusty put up great fight. I was better than him in turn two and at times I could outrun him a little bit better than other times. I got by him and he gave me a big shove, I guess that helped me out."

The victory ended a run of frustration for Labonte. Despite holding the lead in the Winston Cup standings virtually all season, he hadn't won since February in Rockingham, N.C.

It also gave Labonte the second NASCAR major of his career, having won the Coca-Cola 600 in 1995. The 36-year-old Texan had been agonizing close in the Brickyard, finishing second last year and in 1997 and third in 1998.

"This is one of those races you dream about," he said. "Like I said, a lot of things happened this week. I'm just glad it turned out like this."

Wallace, who was trying to give team owner Roger Penske his first victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a Winston Cup car, dominated the race and appeared in control. But on lap 146, Labonte was able to dive inside Wallace entering the third turn. The two cars stayed side-by-side through the fourth turn and drag-raced down the frontstretch. At one point, the cars touched, but both drivers stayed in control.

Labonte was able to win the duel down the frontstretch and pulled off the winning pass entering the first turn. For the rest of the race, Labonte's Pontiac Grand Prix was able to pull away from Wallace's Ford Taurus. As the race wore on, Wallace's car developed a tight handling condition while Labonte's Pontiac was at its best when it mattered the most.

Bobby Labonte
Bobby Labonte's 14th career victory was his biggest.

Labonte finished 4.229 seconds ahead of Wallace, who was followed by Bill Elliott, Jerry Nadeau and Tony Stewart. Labonte added to his lead atop the Winston Cup standings.

Wallace dominated most of the race, hardly thrilling a crowd estimated at 320,000 by leading lap after lap on the 2.5-mile oval. But Labonte was never far behind Wallace.

Wallace, the 1989 series champion and winner of 51 races was trying hard to give owner Roger Penske a record 11th Indy victory -- the first 10 came in open-wheel cars in the Indianapolis 500. He made his final pit stop on lap 121, moments after Labonte had passed to take the lead on lap 119.

Labonte made his final stop the next time around and came back onto the racetrack about two car-lengths ahead of Wallace.

But the No. 2 Ford got right by again and stayed out front until Labonte made his move in the third turn on lap 146. The two were side-by-side coming off turn four and Labonte's right front banged into Wallace's left rear panel as they sped toward the finish line.

Labonte's car was 0.004-seconds ahead at the line and gradually took control.

With Wallace ahead, the two had been running almost nose-to-tail after the pit stops. But Labonte pulled away steadily after the pass, beating Wallace to the finish by 4.229-seconds -- about 20 car-lengths.

Wallace, who led four times for 110 laps, said, "My car just got a little too tight when the clouds came out. Second is pretty good. But to get that close, it's a little hard to smile."

Referring to the pass that gave Labonte the victory, Wallace shrugged and said, "I couldn't shake that No. 18 and I knew I had a tiger by the tail.

"I was real tight in Turn Three and I was afraid he would get me there. Then we were side-by-side and there's no way we could go into turn one like that, so I backed out of it. That was it."

The race was slowed by just two caution flags and Labonte's average speed of 155.918 mph broke the race record of 155.206 set in 1995 by Dale Earnhardt.

Both yellow flags were brought out by accidents.

The first came out on lap 16 when Mark Martin slammed into the first-turn wall.

The accident was ignited when Martin backed off to keep from hitting Michael Waltrip, which whom he had been racing for position. Mike Skinner banged into the rear of Martin's Ford, sending it skidding rear-end first into the wall.

Rick Mast slowed to keep from hitting Skinner and two-time Indy winner Jeff Gordon hit his car, damaging both enough to knock them out of contention.

John Andretti was the next track victim, banging into the third-turn wall after cutting down his right front tire on lap 42. The green flag came back out on lap 47 and the rest of the race was completed without interruption.

Brickyard 400 results

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Notebook: Martin's run of back luck continues in Indy

 Bobby Labonte makes his winning pass around Rusty Wallace on Lap 145.
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 Bobby Labonte takes the checkered flag in the Brickyard 400.
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 Bobby Labonte can't keep Rusty Wallace behind him as he comes out of the pits on Lap 123.
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 Mark Martin hits the Turn 1 wall on Lap 16, ending his Brickyard 400 early.
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 Bobby Labonte talks about his Brickyard victory with ESPN's Whit Watson.
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 ESPN's Matt Yocum analyzes the bumping at the Brickyard.
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 Bobby Labonte knew he was in for a battle with Rusty Wallace.
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 Rusty Wallace recaps his run in Saturday's Brickyard 400.
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 Bill Elliott talks about finishing third in the Brickyard 400.
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 Joe Gibbs says it took a total team effort to win the Brickyard 400.
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 Mark Martin talks about his crash during Saturday's Brickyard 400.
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