Qualifyin' was apparently pretty intense, and when all the dust had cleared, short-trackmiester Rusty Wallace was on the pole, with budding short-trackmiester Jeff Gordon in second place. The top 36 places were separated by 1/4 of a second! Tight - real tight!!
Followin' Wallace and Gordon, making up the Top Twelve were Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Rudd, Kenny Wallace, Hamilton, Martin, Craven - with Hollywood Video still along for the ride, Irwin, Pressley, and Darrell Waltrip(!) - way to go DW!!
Once again, overnight and early morning rains washed down the track, and the start was delayed. I don't really know how long, as we didn't pick up the race via TSN up here in Canada until about 3:45, after the wrap-up of the Brazilian GP. (That race, by the way, was stupefyingly dull, as are most F1's these days... 9 of 21 starters straggled home - ho hum...)
wrapper - again...
This brought out the first yellow on lap 11. Being this early, no one near the front pitted, and the green flew again on lap 17, with Rusty still out front, followed by Gordon, Bobby Labonte, and Stewart. Darrell Waltrip began to fade badly around this time. By lap 33, Wallace was into lapped traffic, and DW was one of 'em. havin' fallen to 41st place.
Top twelve running order on lap forty was Rusty Wallace, Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Stewart, Martin, Rudd, Craven, Kenny Wallace, Musgrave, Petty - on a GOOD run, Jarrett, and Brett Bodine. Rusty was pickin' off lead lap stragglers, and by lap 55, there were 32 left on the lead lap with him.
The laps roll by purty quicklike at Bristol under long green runs... over the next 40 laps we watched Rusty continue to lead, with Kyle Petty putting on an impressive show, movin' up to fourth by lap 90, and Gordon fallin' to sixth. Traffic was very dense, with the leaders pickin' their way thru and lappin' cars runnin' side-by-side for position.
All the leaders hit the pits for tires, gas, and finetuning. Wallace was first out, followed by Bobby Labonte, Martin and Stewart. Rusty led 'em off on the green flag on lap 115, and by lap 120, he was about 20 carlengths out on second-place Labonte, who had the ten-pack of Martin, Stewart, Gordon, Petty, Spencer, Craven, Musgrave, Kenny Wallace, Shrader, and Pressley after him. Jeff Burton was an impressive 13th, havin' moved thru the field from his 31st starting place. Dale Earnhardt had made equally impressive gains, having moved from 34th to 15th!
An interesting run was bein' put in by fifteenth-place Steve Park, who had been hanging desperately onto the end of the lead lap, a few carlengths in front of Wallace, and then Stewart. He was a definite factor in keeping the leaders closed up, as he was just barely fast enough to stay in front of the leaders, meantime overtaking others, who would then get put down a lap. Finally, around lap 245, he could no longer hold off the charging Stewart, and went down a lap.
Imagine Park's frustration, when five laps later, a wreck brought out caution three, after Pressley looped the Jasper Taurus and collected Bobby's nose, damaging his front suspension. Come to think of it, imagine Mr. Labonte's frustration!
At this point, the cable feed went wonky, and I missed about 10-15 minutes - guess the TSN crew was on coffee break! We rejoined around lap 277, with running order on lead lap of Wallace, Stewart, Gordon, Martin, Musgrave, Andretti, Petty - both PE cars havin' a good day, Jarrett, Skinner, Ward Burton, Jeff Burton, Earnhardt and Mike Waltrip. Thirteen cars on the lead lap.
incidents he was in...
All the lead lap cars came in, and, with the exception, it appeared, of Ward Burton, took fuel and four tires. Ward took two rightside only, and came out in the lead, no mean feat, as he was pitted on the backstretch!
Thus, when the green came out on lap 303, Ward led off the field, pursued by Wallace, Stewart, Gordon and Jeff Burton (two tires also??). Poor Bobby Labonte had been forced behind the wall for front suspension repairs, ending any slight hope he'd had of salvaging anything out of the day...
The green flew again on lap 316, with Rusty leading Stewart, Gordon, Ward Burton, Jeff Burton, and Jarrett into turn one. By lap 322, Martin was looking strong, having moved up to fifth. Thus running order of the fourteen lead lap cars was Wallace, Stewart, Gordon, Ward Burton, Martin, Jeff Burton, Jarrett, Musgrave, Andretti, Earnhardt, Skinner, Mike Waltrip, Petty, and Irwin. Things were pretty quiet, for Bristol, with the leadrs gradually pulling away, and closing in on the lead lap tailenders, so we went to commercial.
Everyone hit the pits, for gas, and tires, and racertape. Gordon's crew did a credible job of makin' an ugly wreck even uglier, as they applied an acre of racertape and a couple yards of bungee cord to the nose to keep the hood down. This was done with minimal loss of track position, and Jeff was able to stay on the lead lap.
By lap 377, Wallace had a 2 second lead on the field. The next lap saw Stewart get around Skinner, followed two laps later by Gordon. Meantime, Jeff Burton and Earnhardt passed Musgrave, so top twelve running order on lap 385 was Wallace, Martin, Jarrett, Ward Burton, Jeff Burton, Earnhardt, Musgrave, Petty, Andretti, Irwin, Stewart, and Gordon, with Skinner in 13th, and Mike Waltrip in 14th rounding out the lead lap.
On lap 389, Stewart's day became further unravelled. Gordon passed him, and Skinner followed. During the pass, Skinner and Stewart made contact, and poor Tony had a tire go down, due to damage in the hit from Skinner. This meant a stop in the pits for new rubber, and the loss of at least two laps, compounded by a speeding penalty. He ended up back around 22nd, once things had cleared up.
The leaders once again got into traffic, and the order shuffled behind the front three, so by lap 401, Wallace, Martin and Jarrett were still the lead trio, now followed by Jeff Burton, Musgrave, Ward Burton, Petty, Earnhardt, Andretti, Gordon, Irwin, Skinner and Mike Waltrip on the lead lap. On lap 411, Jarrett took second from Martin, and began to laboriously reel Wallace in, as he was slowed trying to lap Irwin and Skinner, havin' previously disposed of Waltrip. Rusty finally got clear, and there were ten on the lead lap on lap 425, with Gordon the tail-ender.
Over the next forty laps, this order largely held, with the leaders stringing out around the track. Wallace rebuilt his 2 second lead over Jarrett, and Jeff Burton got by Martin for third place. Ward Burton began to fade, and by lap 464, had dropped to tenth place, final spot on the lead lap.
This sent all the leaders into the pits. Routine stops all around, except for Jarrett, whose front tire changer had problems, and the stop ran an interminable 24 seconds. Fortunately for Dale, the lead trio had enough of a lead going in that it only cost him one spot, to third, behind Wallace and Martin on the restart on lap 483 - seventeen to go. Behind this trio, Andretti was fourth, then Jeff Burton, Musgrave, Gordon, Petty, Ward Burton and Earnhardt rounded out the lead lap. Irwin and Mike Waltrip were 11th and 12th respectively, a lap down.
Within a couple laps, Wallace and Martin were well out front, in what had the potential to be a dogfight to the chequered flag, as Martin was all over Rusty's rear bumper. On lap 488, Gordon manhandled his "testimony to duct tape" around Musgrave, settling in to a well-earned sixth.
It must have been reassuring for Wallace to have the gentlemanly Mr. Martin climbin' all over his rear bumper, rather than certain other drivers who coulda been there. This is a short track, after all, and "bump 'n run" has become fair game on short tracks. But that's not Mark's style, and after making a couple strong passing attempts, he sat on Rusty's rear, looking for a chance, but not willing to create that chance with his nose. (By the same token, it would be hard to envision anyone but the most crass of competitors doin' a "bump 'n run" on Mark, if the situation were reversed. Would Rusty? The Jeff's?? Don't think so... Earnhardt?... dunno...)
All in all a good race, a little cleaner than we're used to on the short tracks. Stewart continues to impress mightily, Rusty confirmed his prowess on the bullrings, and Gordon, after some bad luck, showed determination in rasslin' his busted racer to a sixth place. Good runs for Petty and Andretti, and Musgrave gave the 75 car one of its best outings in a few years. Jeff Burton and Earnhardt were impressive gettin' thru the field, to make the top ten.
So, the Penske stable joins the Hendrick and Roush stables as winners in '99. Jeff Burton managed to hang onto the Points lead, by 52 over Dale Jarrett. Bobby Labonte is now third, with Martin in fourth, and Gordon hangin' in in fifth.
Next week, we're off to Martinsville, a short track with no banking and tight corners at each end. Downforce, you say??