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The Polish Victory Lap is Back!


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http://www.thatsracin.com/mld/thatsracin/8462541.htm

 

[size=14Rusty Wallace takes the win

on an odd day at Martinsville [/size]

 

Track trouble interrupts Sunday's race

 

By JIM UTTER

 

ThatsRacin.com Writer

 

 

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - There were times during his career-long 105-race winless streak when Rusty Wallace admitted he questioned himself.

 

His long-awaited return to Victory Lane in Sunday's Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville Speedway, however, left many scratching their heads.

 

"It's been so long and we've been so close," Wallace said from Victory Lane, on the frontstretch of the short track where Wallace has seven career wins.

 

"The fans have been behind me for so long, and this one is for them."

 

Wallace's improbable win came on a day in which Jeff Gordon - who swept both poles and race wins at the track last season - dominated the field decisively, only to see his chances at victory lost in a pothole.

 

There was a one-hour 17-minute red-flag period late in the race while track crews repaired a foot-long by foot-wide gaping hole in Turn 3 - a chunk of which tore into the right-front of Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet, all but ending his shot at victory.

 

Capping the day was Jimmie Johnson's inexplicable decision not to pit for tires late in the race while the rest of the lead-lap cars took on new rubber. That left Johnson, who was leading at the time, easy pickings for Wallace, who took on four new tires.

 

Wallace passed Johnson on Lap 456 and led the final 45 laps, holding off a fast-charging Bobby Labonte by 0.538 seconds for his first win since April 29, 2001, at California Speedway. It was the 55th of his Cup career.

 

At 47 years, eight months and four days, Wallace is the sixth-oldest driver to ever win a Cup race. He also moved into sole possession of eighth place in NASCAR's all-time win list.

 

"I felt like I was driving as hard as I could, and I thought if we could get this right or that right we'd get back in Victory Lane, but you know I'm not a quitter," Wallace said.

 

"I've never quit. If anything, I just keep moving things around to compliment what I've got to have."

 

And move things he did.

 

He tried new crew chiefs and a variety of new pit crew members, always searching for the right mix that would translate into victory.

 

Admin Carter, who worked with rookie Tony Raines last season, stepped into the crew chief role this year, and he and Wallace tinkered with the pit crew right up to the weekend's race.

 

"I got really sick of hearing, 'Why aren't you winning?' but it made me look at the pit crew, myself, my driving style. It made me look at a lot of things," Wallace said.

 

"With all the crew changes and everything we did, I adjusted. Sometimes I'd make a suggestion about the shocks and they'd punch me."

 

Sunday, Wallace saw Johnson decide not to head to pit road late in the race and saw an opportunity.

 

"Right there at the end I saw (Johnson) stay out and Ryan (Newman) take two tires. I knew Ryan was doing that for track position, but I was thinking to myself I could win this thing," Wallace said.

 

Johnson "was on old tires. Ryan was on right-sides and I was sitting there with stickers (new tires). I got past Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and I finally got past (Johnson) and I set sail."

 

Penske Racing part-owner Don Miller said despite the pressure Wallace faced about not winning, it was Wallace who put the most pressure on himself.

 

"He's been doing it a long time so I don't think that pressure was anything like the pressure he put on himself," Miller said. "It's just about time."

 

Although his No. 18 Chevrolet was also working its best at the end of the race, Labonte could not get close enough to Wallace to attempt a pass for the win.

 

"If I could have got to him I would probably hit him and spun him out," Labonte joked. "Seriously, catching somebody here and passing them are two different things."

 

Earnhardt Jr. finished third, Johnson fourth and Newman fifth. Earnhardt Jr. took over the series points lead, with a five-point advantage over Kurt Busch.

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Personally, I am thrilled to see Rusty back in Victory Lane. I am more thrilled that Rusty didnt do what everyone now 'has' to do which is make donuts because that is all the fans love.

 

Thrilled to see Rusty still honoring his late friend Alan Kulculki with the Polish Victory Lap, cause donuts 'are for kids.'

 

Great to see you back Rusty!

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