Rusty Wallace back on top, at Martinsville

Rusty Wallace took the lead from Jimmie Johnson with 45 laps to go, to end a winless streak of 105 races. It was sheer glee in the No. 2 Dodge pit, as Wallace earned his first win since April of 2001. Rusty Wallace. Photo by Eric ...

Rusty Wallace back on top, at Martinsville

Rusty Wallace took the lead from Jimmie Johnson with 45 laps to go, to end a winless streak of 105 races. It was sheer glee in the No. 2 Dodge pit, as Wallace earned his first win since April of 2001.

Rusty Wallace.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"It's been a long time," said Wallace. "We have such good cars.it feels good to win again. I had a great day today, what can I say? Finally back in the winners circle.

"We are on track and we are going to win this darn championship."

Sunday's victory was the 55th of his career.

"I'm so glad to win again," Wallace continued. "Man, it's been so long and we've gotten so close. The fans have been behind me forever and ever, pulling for me really hard. This one's for them."

Bobby Labonte attempted to reel in Wallace, but just could not catch the Dodge of Wallace. He finished second, landing only his second top-five of the season.

"We were about out of right rear tire, and the car was just too loose," Labonte commented on whether he could have caught Wallace. "We kept digging on it, but just couldn't quite get him (Wallace) there at the end."

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. garnered his fifth straight top-five finish at Martinsville with a third place result.

"We were beating and banging there at the end," said Earnhardt. "It was a lot of fun, the car was good. It was real hot today, but the car stayed good.

"We let one get away today."

Jimmie Johnson was fourth, posting his fifth top-ten of 2004.

Jimmie Johnson.
Photo by Michael C. Johnson.
"I knew it was going to be exciting," said Johnson of losing the lead to Wallace. "I knew Rusty was pretty hungry. I knew if I started chopping him or blocking him I was going to have a chrome horn stuck in my rear. I left him a lane, we race hard, rubbed a little bit, put on a good show but he was much better and he got by and so did Bobby (Labonte)."

Ryan Newman completes the top five. It is Newman's fifth top-ten finish of the season.

"Got us a top-five today," Newman said. "We had a top-five car, just track position wise this is the way we had to play it."

It was a wild day in Virginia, with cautions aplenty (11 for 106 laps), but the real humdinger of the event happened on lap 284. A loose piece of concrete at the junction of two expansion joints provided an interesting twist to the Martinsville 500. Pole sitter Jeff Gordon's day went to pot, literally, as a large piece of concrete dislodged from the track surface and slammed into the No. 24 Chevy.

It created a rather sizeable pot hole in turn three, forcing NASCAR to red flag the event for one hour and 17 minutes to make repairs.

Gordon was forced to fix his car, after the field got back underway; sending him from second to 20th. Clearly, the class of the field, Gordon was tenacious, chomping his way back through traffic for a sixth place result.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. climbs back to the top spot in championship standings, leading Kurt Busch by a measly five points. Matt Kenseth (-12), Jimmie Johnson (-79), and Elliott Sadler (-98) complete the top five in the Nextel Chase for the Championship.

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