WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Record-setting Rusty Wallace won it all yesterday, taking the race at Watkins Glen International and wrapping up his first International Race of Champions title and the $175,000 that goes with it.
The NASCAR star started from the pole and led all the way in the 30-lap race on the 2.428-mile, seven-turn road circuit after a crash by Al Unser Jr. aborted the initial start.
Wallace became the first driver in the storied history of IROC to win three straight races and joined the late Mark Donohue as the only drivers to have won three of the four races in a single IROC season. Donohue did it in 1973, the first year of the all-star series.
Mark Martin, another Winston Cup racer, tried to pass Wallace on the last turn of the last lap, but was blocked and came up .15 of a second short.
rTC "Mark got a big bite off that last turn and that's what makes this pretty exciting," Wallace said.
"I had to drive a real defensive race," he said. "I learned a lot on that first start about what not to do."
The first time the race was started, Indy-car regular Scott Pruett jumped from third to the lead before Unser slid off the track in turn five as he battled with Wallace for second place on the first lap. Unser did a spin-and-a-half before the passenger side slammed into the tire wall.
Unser, who said he simply lost control, was not injured. Because yellow flag laps do not count in IROC, the race was restarted with the two-time IROC champion moving to the series backup car and starting last.
The backup car had the name Kendall stenciled on it, referring to road racing star Tommy Kendall, who is recuperating from injuries sustained in a sports car crash here in June. Kendall, at his home in California, gave the command to start engines by telephone.
Unser, who had won three of four previous IROC events here, sliced through the 11-car field, moving all the way to third by lap 11, but couldn't get any closer as Wallace and Martin easily held the top two spots.
1. (1) y-Rusty Wallace, Concord, N.C., NASCAR stock car, 30, 26 111.490. 2. (4) Mark Martin, Jamestown, N.C., NASCAR stock car, 30, 17. 3. (11) x-Al Unser Jr., Albuquerque, N.M., CART Indy-car, 30, 14. 4. (9) Dale Earnhardt, Doolie, N.C., NASCAR stock car, 30, 12. 5. (2) Bill Elliott, Dawsonville, Ga., NASCAR stock car, 30, 10. 6. (11) Dorsey Schroeder, Ballwin, Mo., IMSA GTO sports car, 30, 9. 7. (10) Geoff Brabham, Australia, IMSA GTP sports car, 30, 8. 8. (8) Bob Wollek, France, IMSA GTP sports car, 30, 7. 9. (5) Al Unser, Albuquerque, N.M., CART Indy-car, 30, 6. 10. (6) Geoff Bodine, Julian, N.C., NASCAR stock car, 30, 5. 11. (3) Scott Pruett, Dublin, Ohio, CART Indy-car, 20, mechanical, 4. 12. Tommy Kendall, LaCanada, Calif., SCCA Trans-Am, DNR, race injury, 3.
x-Driver moved to backup car for restart after crash on first lap.
MA y-Wallace earned five bonus points for leading the most laps.
Final points and money
Wallace 86 points, $175,000. Elliott 64, $65,000. Martin 56, $55,000. Pruett 51, $50,000. Unser Jr. 47, $45,000. Unser 37, $40,000. Brabham 30, $40,000. Bodine 29, $40,000. Earnhardt 27, $40,000. Wollek 25, $40,000. Kendall 24, $40,000. Schroeder
Bud at the Glen
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- NASCAR's Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd, who have dominated Winston Cup racing since 1987, will start today's Budweiser at the Glen in unfamiliar territory -- the middle of the 40-car field.
Wallace had an engine problem Friday in the opening round of qualifying, and Rudd never even made it to the first session of time trials after crashing his car during practice Thursday.
But they re-established their credentials yesterday, easily leading second-round qualifying with Wallace fastest at 121.353 mph in a Pontiac and Rudd turning a lap of 119.995 in his patched-up Chevrolet.
On Friday, those laps on the 2.428-mile, seven-turn Watkins Glen circuit would have been good for third and ninth. Instead, Wallace and Rudd, who have split the last four races here, will start 21st and 22nd.