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Good Ol' Boys - NASCAR

Go Chasing, Rusty Wins at Bristol
By Frank Ryan
August 26, 2000

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Rusty Wallace celebrates in Victory Lane

With more than 150,000 fans packed in Bristol Motor Speedway, the GoRacing.com 500 was short track racing at it's best, and when the smoke had cleared from the 13 caution periods, Rusty Wallace had once again found his way to Victory Lane. Wallace had "the car to beat" as he piloted his Harley Davidson, Miller Lite Ford to his fourth win of the season and his 9th career victory at Bristol Motor Speedway. Starting from the Bud Pole for the eighth time this season, Wallace was in front from wire to wire as he claimed his 53rd Winston Cup victory.

The GoRacing.com 500 could have been named the GoChasing.com 500, because for nearly 300 laps that is exactly what the field did to Rusty Wallace, chase him. Fresh off his victory in Michigan, Wallace promptly grabbed the pole at BMS and then proceeded to absolutely scorch the other cars on the track. Wallace led more than half the race, and when he wasn't leading he was firmly planted in the top five. 

As always, short track racing means action, and tonight's GoRacing.com 500 was no exception. The 0.533 high banked concrete speedway, known as Bristol Motor Speedway, is "racin' the way it ought'a be" and all but the victorious leave Thunder Valley beaten and bruised.

Down goes the throttle and Bud Pole winner Rusty Wallace leads the field to the green flag for the start of the GoRacing.com 500 from Bristol Motor Speedway. Jeff Gordon followed and the cars would get through the first lap unscathed. Mike Skinner and Steve Park also gave chase, with chase being the critical word. 

Unable to keep up with the blistering pace, Steve Park brought out the first of thirteen caution periods on lap 28 when he lost the handle of his Penzoil Chevrolet coming out of turn 2. Losing the rear end of the car, spinning the rear to the right, Park regained control of his car without hitting anything and rejoined the field losing only a few positions.

Most of the thirteen caution periods were similar in nature, except the car bringing out the caution was usually tapped in the rear by someone first. This is, after all, short track racing and everybody knows you aren't out there to finish in second place.


Rudd (10th places) chases Jarrett (9th)

Rusty Wallace kept the lead through lap 50 when Dave Blaney brought out the next caution period. Blaney spun in turn 3 and backed his car hard into the concrete retaining wall. The Amoco Pontiac suffered heavy damage and would be done for the night.

The restart on lap 57 had Ward Burton in the lead. Stealing the lead with a two-tire pit stop, he would only keep the lead until lap 64 when Wallace would slip by easily with four new tires. Wallace would keep the lead for the next 70 laps of racing; with short caution periods being brought out for separate spins by Geoff Bodine and Dale Jarrett on lap 92 and 98 respectively.

Tony Stewart, last year's winner of the night race at Bristol, was working his way to the front and took the lead from Wallace on lap 139. Stewart had a fast car, and he kept the lead through lap 225 when he made a green flag pit stop for fuel and tires. Scott Pruett brought out the fifth caution period of the race when he tangled with Rick Mast and Mike Skinner. Pruett spun and slid backwards into the wall outside of turn 2, tearing up the left side of his Tide Ford. The race restarted on lap 246 and at the half way point it was Tony Stewart in the lead, with Wallace in second, Jeff Gordon in third and Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt rounding out the top five. Unfortunately, Gordon's run in the top 5 would end on lap 260 when he would lose a cylinder and finish back in the pack. 


Mark Martin

Mark Martin had moved up to second place by lap 270 and four laps later passed Stewart to grab the lead. Martin would hold the lead until the next caution period, brought out on lap 320 by a spinning Bobby Hillin. Bobby Labonte would spin in an attempt to avoid Hillin and lose a lap and part of his championship points lead in the process. Rusty Wallace would win the race out of the pits and keep it for the remainder of the race.

A number of cautions were brought out for spins and minor mishaps, but the worst of these involved Robert Pressley. Pressley spun on lap 386 and gently tapped the wall, bringing out the tenth caution period of the evening. Pressley drove the car into the pits for minor repair and rejoined the race for a restart on lap 393. 


Robert Pressley goes up in flames

But five laps later, Pressley was involved in a fiery, frightening looking crash. Racing with Scott Pruett, Pressley once again got sideways, but this time he hit the wall with tremendous force. As the back of the car made contact with the wall, the force of the impact ruptured the fuel cell, and as the car slid backwards against the wall the fuel ignited into a huge fireball. The car slid slowly down the banking, leaving behind a trail of flame and debris. Pressley was uninjured and exited the car just as the safety crews arrived and made short work of the fire.

The final caution of the night was brought out on lap 434 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun his Budweiser Chevrolet. Racing back to the checkered flag in an attempt to unlap himself, Bobby Hamilton was moving high around Rusty Wallace. Just as they got back to the start finish line it appeared the Hamilton had gotten his lap back, but just as he crossed the line Jeremy Mayfield move up in front of Hamilton. Hamilton had nowhere to go and struck the right rear of Mayfield's Mobil 1 Ford, demolishing both cars in the process. 

The entire field pitted for the final 40-lap shootout set to begin on lap 460. Ward Burton once again made a two-tire pit stop and left the pits with the lead. But Wallace had four new tires and took the lead back after only two laps of racing. Stewart tried to mount a challenge, but fell short and would have to settle for second place. Mark Martin finished in third, Dale Earnhardt took fourth and Steve Park finished in fifth.

Unofficially in fourth place in the Winston Cup standings, 290 points behind Bobby Labonte, one has to wonder if Rusty Wallace can make up the ground in the remaining 11 races and win the Championship. With eight poles and four wins this season, Wallace just might be able to do it.

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Photos courtesy Ford

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