RICHMOND, Va. -- The Winston Cup season is three races old, but that was plenty old enough to worry Davey Allison and his Havoline Racing team.
He had finished 28th at Daytona, 14th at Rockingham. Yesterday, he improved even more and won the Pontiac Excitement 400. At this rate, he'll have to win by 14 minutes next week at Atlanta.
Even if he doesn't, this is the kind of race that will worry the rest of the Winston Cup field. Allison dominated. The Buffalo Bills had as much chance of beating the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter at the Super Bowl as second-place finisher Rusty Wallace had of catching Allison at the finish line.
Allison's Ford set a race record of 107.709 mph and won by 4.38 seconds -- about a quarter of a lap.
"There is absolutely no question that winning takes a lot of pressure off," said Allison, who has finished third in the Winston Cup points race the past two seasons. "But this is a long season and we've got a long way to go. . . . But I tell you, I'm glad Daytona and Rockingham are behind us. This team isn't used to being back in the pack, fighting traffic all day."
Following Allison and Wallace across the finish line was defending Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki, who also had his best finish of the season.
Daytona 500 winner Dale Jarrett, driving the Joe Gibbs Interstate Batteries car, was fourth and took the Winston Cup point lead by one point from Dale Earnhardt, who was penalized 15 seconds for speeding on pit road and finished 10th, one lap down.
"The Gestapo got me," Earnhardt said. "The pit road speed limit was 40 mph, and I was within a couple hundred rpms of where I should have been, give or take. . . . It sure hurts to lose a top-five finish and the points lead that way."
Jarrett said he isn't surprised to be in the points lead, because that's where his team set out to be.
"We're not what people consider a title contender," he said, "and they're still not going to consider us contenders . . . but if we can keep this up, they'll take notice."
Certainly people took notice of the way Allison won yesterday. It is the way he won during the first half of last season. But it is the first race Allison has dominated since winning last June at Phoenix. He was dominating during the June race at Pocono -- leading 85 percent of the laps -- before suffering shoulder, rib, head and wrist injuries after a wild, tumbling ride down the backstretch.
During the early laps yesterday, Kyle Petty dominated. But Allison found he and Wallace could keep pace, and when his crew pulled off "a killer pit stop" that gave him the lead during the caution on Lap 244 of the 400-lap race, Allison knew if he didn't "mess it up" he could win.
"Actually, I kind of knew Saturday night," Allison said. "Larry [McReynolds, crew chief] and I and our families went to evening Mass,and while I was sitting there, I just got goose bumps. Right then I had the feeling we'd win, and this morning I felt I was spring loaded."
NOTES: Jeff Gordon was the top finishing rookie, coming home sixth. His closest rookie challenger was Kenny Wallace (26th), followed by Bobby Labonte, 18 laps down in 29th place. "This was a real character builder, I guess," Labonte said. "Many more races like this and we'll have the strongest character in the garage area." . . . Kenny Wallace crashed at the finish line on the final lap with Bobby Hamilton. Hamilton was OK. Wallace, initially cleared in the infield medical center, became ill once he got back to his trailer and was taken to St. Mary's Hospital to be checked for smoke inhalation.