Wallace points to record run at 2nd title Stops Martin, takes aim at Earnhardt

RICHMOND, VA. — RICHMOND, Va. -- Mark Martin's record-tying run ended at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night, but Rusty Wallace sounded convinced that he had started a string of his own.

Martin was the main draw in the Miller Genuine Draft 400, as he tried to put his Valvoline Ford in victory lane for a record fifth straight time.


But after leading twice for 155 laps, Martin's car ran into handling problems and an inspired performance by Wallace, who overcame a stop-and-go penalty for a three car-length victory over Bill Elliott.

Martin finished sixth, 1.63 seconds away from history.


"We wanted this one, but we won four," Martin said. "We can get five later, and that's what I've always hoped for, something like that."

The Winston Cup tour moves to Dover, Del., this weekend for the Peak Antifreeze 500, and Martin always runs well there, although he never has won at the one-mile oval.

"Dover owes me one," Martin said.

To get a win Sunday, however, may be even harder than it was Saturday.

"Saturday, I won my sixth race of the season, and that matches how many wins I got in '88 and '89," Wallace said. "I didn't think you could win that many races like you did in those days. Heck, I'm glad I ended Mark's streak, and I love running at Dover."

As does Winston Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt, who managed a third-place finish here, after being within two car lengths of going a lap down.

Wallace, who is second to Earnhardt in the championship race, closed the gap to 284 points, and considered it a step toward his own record-setting goal.

The former Winston Cup champion is trying to become the first Winston Cup driver to overcome a 307-point deficit and win his second championship.


"I'm doing my job," Wallace said. "I'm doing all I can to win this points race. At one point [Saturday night], I thought I was going to lap him, but he got a good pit stop and picked up some positions. He had a wreck on pit road and overcame that, and it worked out for him. That's the way you've got to win a championship."

Little more than a week ago, the Earnhardt team was hearing rumors that it was "stroking," running just well enough to protect its lead. That bit of gamesmanship still was eating at Earnhardt on Saturday night.

"This ought to prove two things," said Earnhardt. "We ain't stroking, and this team really knows what it's doing. We made chassis changes on just about every pit stop. We put rubber in, we took rubber out. We changed wedge. We did just about everything and we were way down and we came back for third and that says a lot."

Like Wallace and Martin, Earnhardt also is looking forward to Dover, where he won in the spring.

"We'll just see what we've got for them Sunday," he said.

Saturday, Wallace had too much for everyone. He overcame the stop-and-go penalty that took him from first to 26th, and then drove on anger for the next 305 laps, averaging 99.917 mph to complete the 300-mile course in 3 hours, 9 seconds. He collected $49,415.


"I'm still not over it," Wallace said. "I won the race and I'm happy about it, but that wasn't right. I know I shouldn't dwell on it, because I'll get myself in trouble. But NASCAR said I jammed the brakes and mashed the gas on that restart, and it's just not true.

"[The penalty] meant I had a long way to go, and you never know if you can get there."