Formula One
 Wednesday, August 23
Wallace doesn't tire late in Michigan news services

Sunday, Aug. 20
When Ricky Rudd and Bobby Labonte took on two tires during their last pit stop it gave them the track position they needed to finally get by Rusty Wallace. But when Robby Gordon's crash brought out the caution with 16 laps to go, it was Wallace with four fresh tires who again gained the upper hand.

Robin Pemberton made the call to go with four tires, and Wallace did question his crew chief's decision a little bit. After all, this is a driver who's lost more than his share of races in 2000 because of calls late in the race that didn't go his way.

After taking two tires earlier in the race to get his own track position, Wallace faded late in the run and saw both Rudd and Labonte overtake him. So, under the only green-flag stop of the race, the No. 2 team gambled on four tires. And with four fresh tires, Wallace lost the lead, but was making up about two-tenths of a second a lap with 30 laps to go. And when that late caution came out, it took less than two laps after the restart for Wallace to overtake both Labonte and Rudd.

Wallace may have caught up without the yellow, but it was certainly much easier to make up two car lengths than the two seconds he was behind the leaders before Gordon's accident.

Now with three victories, Wallace ties Tony Stewart for the series lead in 2000. Wallace's victory also marks his first top-five finish at Michigan Speedway in eight races -- dating back to June of '96.

Up next is Bristol, a track where Rusty has won two of the past three races -- including his magical 50th career victory back in the spring.

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Rusty Wallace had grown tired of leading races only to give them away at the end. So Wallace used four fresh tires on his final pit stop to clear his way to victory in Sunday's Pepsi 400 at Michigan Speedway.

During the final pit stop sequence with 30 laps to go, most of the leaders pitted for two tires instead of four because that combination had worked for most of the 200-lap race. But Wallace decided to stop for four new tires and the extra time in the pits dropped him to third behind Ricky Rudd and Bobby Labonte.

Wallace was catching up to the leaders at two-tenths to three-tenths of a second per lap before getting a break when the final caution flag flew for a three-car spin involving Robby Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mike Bliss. That bunched the field for the final restart with 17 laps remaining.

It took Wallace just one lap to take the lead. Two laps later, he was pulling away. With five laps remaining, Wallace was over two seconds ahead of Rudd and well on his way to the checkered flag.

Wallace's third win of the season, however, was almost upstaged Sunday by another altercation between Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

"I had a hot rod all day long," said Wallace who has won five of his 52 career NASCAR Winston Cup races at Michigan Speedway. "I figured I had a first- or second-place car all day. I knew I'd have to race Ricky Rudd, because he was quicker than me.

"The four-tire change was the way to go today. We loosened the left rear of the car up on the last stop. Those were about all the changes we made today. It was a great car all day long."

Wallace, who beat Rudd by 2.971 seconds, averaged 132.586 mph in a race which took 3:01.01 to complete. Dale Jarret was fourth and Johnny Benson of nearby Grand Rapids, Mich., was fifth.

The difference between Wallace's and Rudd's Fords was evident. After 30 laps, Rudd's car would have the advantage and he would be able to pass Wallace for the lead and pull away. That would only work on a long run, and with 17 laps left, Wallace had the edge.

"Ricky was better than me about 30 laps into a run," Wallace said. "He would run me down, catch me and get past me. I was better than him on the earlier runs, but late in the run he would get me.

"It was just a gamble. We had to go for it. At that point, I was feeling pretty confident, but you know as well as I do, it's not over until it's over. I was waiting to go down that back straightaway and the motor blow up or a tire go flat or a crash or something. But, if everything remained normal, I felt confident about the outcome."

For the second straight week, the outcome of the race was almost upstaged by an incident involving Gordon and Stewart.

The brash Stewart, as he did a week earlier at Watkins Glen, took Gordon into a wall, causing serious damage. That time, the two almost got in a fistfight. But it didn't lead to such bad blood on this occassion.

Stewart was running second to Wallace when his car got loose and touched pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. on lap 37.

Earnhardt Jr. drove on, but Stewart's Pontiac began to swerve badly. The car got sideways between the first and second turn and spun into Gordon, who was trying to get past the trouble on the high side.

Gordon's car slammed into the wall, damaging the front end, and he had to take the multi-colored Chevrolet in to have the brakes repaired.

"I just lost it down there," Stewart said. "We were just racing hard out there. It was my fault. I just got down into one and I don't know why I got loose. I hadn't been loose there all day.

"For some reason, it just got loose that one lap down there and I crashed a bunch of people I didn't mean to crash. It was my fault. I just lost it."

Actually, the only driver he caused to crash was Gordon. But that was enough.

The start of the race had been overshadowed all week by the feud a week earlier between Gordon and Stewart at Watkins Glen. In that race, Stewart caused Gordon to go into the wall while Gordon was trying to pass on an `S' curve. Gordon vowed a payback during a shouting match later in the garage area.

Rusty Wallace
Rusty Wallace takes the checkered flag Sunday at Michigan Speedway.

"I'm sure a lot of people were wondering what was going to happen with the 20 and 24," said Gordon, whose car was taken to the garage. "But it had nothing to do with this weekend at all. He was racing hard and it looked like he just got real loose.

"I saw the 20 car wiggle and it looked like it got real sideways."

The race went on for 41 laps while Gordon's crew installed new brakes. He rejoined the race while the leaders still had 119 laps to go, but completed only 141 laps before retiring the car.

Kerry Earnhardt, making his first Winston Cup start, hit the wall on the fourth turn of his sixth lap, bringing out the first of the race's eight caution flags.

"The car was running real loose," he said. "We were just trying to stay out of trouble and bring it in on the first caution. But another car got underneath me on turn 3 and took away my air. I thought I could hang on to it, but I spun out and hit the wall."

Still, it was just the start of a so-so day for all three Earnhardts in this race. Dale Jr., despite starting first, spun onto the infield grass while swerving to avoid Robby Gordon on lap 177 and finished 31st. Their father, The Intimidator himself, finished sixth after taking a provisional to start 37th.

Bill Elliott, on lap 124, went into the wall at the exit of the second turn with a cut right tire. That caution period led to a mass pit stop, with Rudd leading Jeff Burton. Wallace was back in front when they all came out and the caution was lifted.

Rudd and Wallace raced hard around the banked 2-mile speedway for the next few laps, swaping the lead back and forth several times.

It was great entertainment for the sun-drenched fans, yet the race may have hinged on pit strategy.

Wallace went in with 30 laps to go and took on fuel plus four new tires, all in 16.1 seconds. The others waited until lap 173 to make their final pit stop. Rudd, who went in with that group, took on only two new tires -- both on the right side of the car.

Wallace, who won at Bristol, Tenn. in May and the second Pocono race in July, was running third behind Rudd and Labonte when the spin by Earnhardt Jr. and Robby Gordon brought the caution flag out on lap 177. The difference was that Wallace had the four new tires while the others had taken on just two.

"I didn't think I was going to catch those guys," Wallace said. "But the caution flag came out and they were sitting on two tires. They gambled, but we went for four and ... when they dropped that (restart) flag, the Miller Lite Ford took off like a bullet."

There were 21 lead changes among eight drivers and 12 of the 43 cars failed to finish. There were 38 laps run under the eight cautions.


Pepsi 400 results

Notebook: Rough day for young Earnhardts

 Rusty Wallace takes the checkered flag at Michigan Speedway.
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 An excited Rusty Wallace speaks from Victory Lane.
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 Rusty Wallace goes low to pass Ricky Rudd with just 17 laps to go.
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 Leaders Wallace and Rudd make contact, but Wallace keeps his car out of the wall.
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 Isn't it ironic? Tony Stewart crashes and takes out Jeff Gordon.
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RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Kerry Earnhardt describes what happened on Lap 5 when his day ended in the wall.
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 Pepsi 400 winner Rusty Wallace talks with ESPN's Dr. Jerry Punch on RPM 2Night.
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 Rusty Wallace talks about holding on after making contact on lap 118.
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 Ricky Rudd says Wallace's four fresh tires were the deciding factor at the end.
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 Bobby Labonte just couldn't get comfortable.
wav: 143 k
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 Dale Jarrett and his crew had to make radical changes midway through the race.
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 Tony Stewart talks about the crash that ended his day and nearly ended Jeff Gordon's as well.
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