NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. -- Rusty Wallace took comman in the First Union 400's second half yesterday at North Wilkesboro Speedway, cruised to his third NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory this season and charged into the points lead toward the season championship.
Wallace swept under the checkered flag 1.5 seconds ahead of runner-up Kyle Petty as the two gave Pontiac a 1-2 sweep.
To the cheers of an estimated 45,000 fans, a record crowd at the .625-mile track, Wallace whipped his Grand Prix around on the front-stretch and took a counter-clockwise route to Victory Lane.
It was a tribute to his late friend, Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 Winston Cup champion who died in a plane crash April 1. Kulwicki inaugurated what he called the "Polish victory lap" in 1988.
"I'd like for everyone to remember Alan," said Wallace, who led 120 of the final 150 laps, including the last 101. "I'll be taking these victory laps the reverse way all year long when I win and I hope all the other guys will, too. Alan deserves it.
"I know that if I should pass away I'd like for my comrades to remember me."
The outcome catapulted Wallace from second place in the Winston Cup standings to first, 18 points ahead of Dale Earnhardt, who finished 16th in a Chevrolet.
Wallace, who essentially vowed during the preseason to regain the title he held in 1989, had started the seventh of this season's 30 races trailing by 47 points.
Wallace averaged 92.062 mph in the Grand Prix owned by Roger Penske and fielded by a crew led by Buddy Parrott, as four caution periods slowed the pace for 39 laps. The victory was worth $43,535
1. (9) Rusty Wallace, St. Louis, Pontiac Grand Prix, 400, $43,535, 92.602 mph; 2. (22) Kyle Petty, Randleman, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 400, $29,210; 3. (4) Ken Schrader, Fenton, Mo., Chevrolet Lumina, 400, $40,235; 4. (27) Davey Allison, Hueytown, Ala., Ford Thunderbird, 400, $28,285; 5. (23) Darrell Waltrip, Franklin, Tenn., Chevrolet Lumina, 400, $25,935; 6. (6) Terry Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas, Chevrolet Lumina, 400, $18,235; 7. (10) Ricky Rudd, Chesapeake, Va., Chevrolet Lumina, 400, $14,960; 8. (17) Morgan Shepherd, Conover, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 400, $12,805; 9. (8) Sterling Marlin, Columbia, Tenn., Ford Thunderbird, 400, $13,880; 10. (15) Bill Elliott, Dawsonville, Ga., Ford Thunderbird, 398, $18,860.
Long Beach Grand Prix
Paul Tracy already had proven he was talented, fast, and prone to youthful mistakes. Now he has proved he could win. The 24-year-old Canadian charger, making only his 18th career star, came up with his first IndyCar victory yesterday, running away with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
He had come close before, finishing second at Michigan and Mid-Ohio last year and leading more than half the race two weeks ago at Phoenix before crashing.
This time, nothing could deter the bespectacled youngster, not even two flat tires.
Tracy, driving for the elite Penske team, led 81 of the 105 laps -- including the final 32 -- on the 1.59-mile, eight-turn downtown street circuit, beating defending series champion Bobby Rahal to the finish by 12.658 seconds.
Nigel Mansell, who set a track record in winning the pole, lost the lead to Tracy at the start and finished third in the 105-lap race on the 1.59-mile downtown street circuit.
The race was full of wrecks and angry charges by drivers after the race. One happened before the race was even under way when Phoenix winner Mario Andretti and Stefan Johansson of Sweden came together as the green flag waved 50 yards ahead of them.
1. (2) Paul Tracy, Canada, Penske-Chevrolet C, 93.089 mph; 2. (11) Bobby Rahal, Dublin, Ohio, Rahal, Hogan-Chevrolet C; 3. (1) Nigel Mansell, England, Lola-Ford Cosworth XB; 4. (7) Teo Fabi, Italy, Lola-Chevrolet C; 5. (18) Roberto Guerrero, San Juan Capistrano, Calif., Lola-Chevrolet C; 6. (23) Robbie Buhl, Grosse Point, Mich., 1992 Lola-Chevrolet A; 7. (15) Scott Pruett, Crystal Bay, Nev., 1991 Lola-Chevrolet A; 8. (12) Danny Sullivan, Aspen, Colo., Lola-Chevrolet C; 9. (10) Eddie Cheever, Aspen, Colo., 1992 Penske-Chevrolet B; 10. (14) Mark Smith, McMinnville, Ore., 1991 Penske-Chevrolet B.
Englishman Steve Robertson got past pole-winner Franck Freon of France to win the Long Beach, Calif., round of the Firestone Indy Lights series.
Juan Manuel Fangio II beat teammate P. J. Jones by 7 1/2 seconds to win the IMSA Camel GT event in the Toyota Grand Prix of Atlanta.