Domination underscores winning performance

By Jeff Birchfield

STAR Staff

   Bill Elliott put on one of the most dominant performances in the history of the Brickyard 400 on Sunday, racing out to a 1.269 victory over second place finisher Rusty Wallace.
   At no point of the race did Elliott, who led 93 of the race's 160 laps, drop back farther than fifth in the race, with that coming after the four cars ahead of him opted to take two tires instead of four on the final round of pit stops.
   It was Elliott's first back-to-back win since winning four races in a row near the beginning of the 1992 season. It was also the first Winston Cup win at Indianapolis for the Dodge brand.
   Dodge Motorsports Vice President Jim Julow commented on how the brand was on a roll, winning the second major race of the season after Ward Burton taking the Daytona 500. Next of the highest priority races to win he mentioned were the Michigan race at the home of the manufactures and the Sharpie 500 night race at Bristol.
   For Wallace, it marked a third runner-up finish in the race, following close defeats in 1995 to Dale Earnhardt and 2000 to Bobby Labonte. Elliott set a new record as the oldest winner of the Brickyard 400 at 46 years of age, eclipsing a record held by Earnhardt, who was 44 years old at the time of his Indy triumph.
   Elliott and 11th place Bobby Labonte each extended a streak in the Brickyard 400 of completion of the most laps in race history with each making 1439 of the 1440 possible laps run in Winston Cup competition at Indianapolis.
   NASCAR champions Wallace and Jeff Gordon were certainly ready to end long winless streaks in the Brickyard 400, evidenced by their hard charges throughout the race.
   In the first one quarter of the race, Gordon, who now is winless in the last 29 races, had advanced from 21st place to 9th. Wallace, a non-winner in the last 47 NASCAR events, was only one position back in tenth on lap 40, an improvement of 25 spots over his 35th place starting position.
   The charges did little good a few laps later. Gordon's car faded back to 13th and Wallace was back in 25th after the next set of pit stops. Wallace continued working his way back up through the field the rest of the race, ending up with the strong second place. Gordon eventually fell to 19th before pit strategy put him in 2nd in the middle of the race. His car dropped to eighth before he came back to score a sixth place run.
   In the post-race press conference, Wallace stated: "I'm dying to win. I've won 16 straight years and want to tie Richard Petty's record for 18 straight winning seasons."
   Also of note, pole sitter Tony Stewart led the race on four different occasions but faded to a 12th place finish over the closing laps. In nine Brickyard 400 starts, the pole sitter is yet to win. Elliott became the first driver that started on the front row to win the 400. Three Brickyard race winners had come from the previous best third starting position.
   It took only 12 laps for the first test of the new SAFER walls by a stock car when Mike Wallace cut a right front tire and went head-on into the barrier. The walls got a big thumbs up as Wallace emerged from the accident unscathed and no repair was needed to the walls.
   On lap 37, the walls got a second more severe test when Kurt Busch passed Jimmy Spencer going into turn three only to have Spencer ram the back of Busch's machine and send it hard into the wall. Again, neither the driver was hurt or the barriers needed repair. A high speed crash with veteran Geoff Bodine hitting the wall drivers side also turned out with the same result.
   Later in the race, Casey Atwood had a full speed crash where his No. 7 Dodge impacted the wall at the drivers' side door. Atwood immediately exited the car after it came to a stop marking the fourth time in the event a driver was unhurt after a hard crash.
   Kingsport's Tony Glover was honored on Sunday as the 5th annual winner of the C&R Racing "True Grit Award."
   Glover, the team manager on the No. 40 Ganassi Racing Dodge that Sterling Marlin drives, was given the award based on a criteria heavy on achievement and racing experience. Before his current role, Glover honed his skills at Kingsport Speedway and other local short tracks as a crew man for his father Gene Glover.
   His Winston Cup experience includes working with Petty Enterprises and Morgan-McClure Racing. He won three Daytona 500's while serving as crew chief for the Kodak team from 1983-95.
   About getting the award, Glover stated: "That means a tremendous amount to accomplish something like that in Winston Cup. You know it's something I will cherish for the rest of my life. To have a place in the Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is something that is a true honor.
   "I'm pretty honored they chose me. Basically, I'm the one that gets to accept this award for this race team. It's all about Chip Ganassi, Andy Graves, Lee McCall, Sterling Marlin and everybody that helped us get to this position."
   Unlike many races this season, when there have been only enough cars to fill up the 43-car field, you know the Brickyard 400 is a special event with the number of cars trying to make the show. Seven drivers -- Ron Hornaday, Derrike Cope, Scott Wimmer, Tony Raines, Jim Sauter, Stuart Kirby and P.J. Jones -- failed to make the field for the 2002 Brickyard 400.
   After experiencing problems midway through the Brickyard 400, it appeared Sterling Marlin's lead in the Winston Cup point standings might be in jeopardy. Marlin limped to a 27th place final finish. However, second place Mark Martin, a leader earlier in the event, had problems himself and wound up one position behind Marlin. Rookie Jimmie Johnson via his ninth place finish now takes over the runner-up spot in the points, 93 markers back. Martin is third 109 points down and Gordon ranks fourth 125 back.
   The top ten in points is only separated by 286 points with Busch the big loser on the day, falling five spots after his 41st place finish.