10 caution flags, but no injuries

THE BALTIMORE SUN

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The best news to come out of the Daytona 500 yesterday was that it was injury-free, despite a record-tying 10 caution flags.

Cars spun and crashed, but the only thing besides cars to get injured here was Rusty Wallace's pride.

He left Daytona International Speedway the way he always does: early, behind in points and angry. Wallace was running a conservative race in 16th position, biding his time before coming into the pits for a chassis adjustment, when, on Lap 158, he and Bobby Hamilton crashed in the fourth turn.

"I can't believe it," he said. "The caution flag was waving. I went to the bottom of the race track, I started to slow down and the No. 43 never lifted and went around the top and I got hit again. I just can't get away from rookies that always keep crashing out here. It's so aggravating. It's like five years in a row here, six now. I don't know why I'm the one who's always got to put up with all the also-rans, but it happens all the time. It's always somebody getting overanxious."

Hamilton, who is driving for Richard Petty, felt free to disagree.

"Rusty cut up into me," said Hamilton. "I heard Rusty say I didn't slow down. But I'm up high on the racetrack and can't see what's coming up behind me at 190 mph. I saw him slow down a little bit, but I was already on the outside of him. I can't get out of the gas. I don't know who's behind me. I'll get run over, you know. Regardless of who did or didn't slow down, he's got a spotter. His spotter should have told him he wasn't clear."

Wallace finished 34th, Hamilton 18th.

"We're pretty happy," said Hamilton.

Wallace wasn't.

"I better not say anything else or I'm going to say something I don't need to say," he said. "But it drives me nuts. Everywhere else we race, I win the races and lead all the laps. But my luck is obviously not very good here."

Monte Carlo tops

Sterling Marlin's victory in his Chevrolet made the Monte Carlo the winningest nameplate in Winston Cup history. It was the 200th victory for the model. The Monte Carlo returned to racing this season after a five-year absence.

Company of three

Rick Hendrick's three-car team fared better than a lot of individual efforts. The surprise was that it wasn't Jeff Gordon (22nd) or Ken Schrader (ninth) who placed highest for Hendrick Motorsports. It was Ted Musgrave, who finished fourth.

"My car was better than anybody's on a long run," said Musgrave, who drove the Family Channel Thunderbird. "But there were a lot of cautions. But getting in the top five and just being competitive all day long is really the highlight of my career."

Hugs all around

Car owner Richard Childress wasted no time moving down Pit Road to the Marlin pits after Marlin beat Childress' driver, Dale Earnhardt, to the finish. Childress held fellow owner Larry McClure in a long embrace of congratulations.

Whatever happened to?

Bill Elliott cut a tire, lost a lap and couldn't get it back. Finished 23rd. Darrell Waltrip's team dropped the jack, he popped the clutch and lost the gearbox. Finished 32nd. Dale Jarrett abused his rear tires before the final caution and lost the handling. Finished fifth. Michael Waltrip led laps 102 and 103, lost the handling. Finished sixth. John Andretti started 38th, had a run-in with Derrike Cope. Finished 27th.

Fitting conclusion

The Junior Johnson car driven by Brett Bodine started the week being fined $45,000 for an illegal part before qualifying. It started yesterday's race at the back of the field because the team was using a backup car after in a crash during the 125-mile qualifiers on Thursday. Yesterday, its day was over on Lap 9, when Bodine collided with Joe Nemecheck coming out of the fourth turn.

Johnson's other car, driven by Loy Allen, faired better, coming home 17th after starting 37th.

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