Wallace seizes moment

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR STAFF
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   BRISTOL -- Busch Series regular Kenny Wallace used the old bump-and-run technique and added in a quick restart to win the Charter/Hardee's 250 for NASCAR's All-Pro Series Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
   The restart allowed Wallace to get away from cars with fresher tires racing behind him.
   "My car owner, Richie Waters, said we have to pit," said Wallace. "I said, 'You think so. We ain't coming in.' I looked up at the scoreboard and saw it was at lap 240. I looked at the track and knew it would take a while to clean up that wreck. It was another four laps before the race restarted. I cheated a little on the restart. I started about 50 feet before where the line was, in that gray area. That was key to holding them off."
   It was Wallace's second win on the .533-mile high banked oval following a Busch Series triumph back in 1994. He also scored his first career Winston Cup pole position at Bristol back in 1998.
   "The reason I come to run this race is because I'm a racer," said Wallace. "When you get a chance to run a really good car, you pounce on it. There's not many opportunities to drive a good car in Winston Cup and Busch. As far as my career, it doesn't real help me at all. I set on the pole at Winston Cup last year at Rockingham and led a bunch of laps against the best drivers in the world. It was just a fun time getting in a car like this."
   Ironic was the method Wallace used to take the lead on lap 231. His No. 5 Ford tapped the bumper of Gordon's Pontiac sliding him up the track and giving Wallace the lead. Another Gordon, Jeff, no relation to Benny, used the same bump and run move on the last lap of the 1998 Food City 500 to beat Wallace's older brother Rusty.
   "I gave him a couple of chances to let me get by him clean and he chopped me off both times," said Wallace. "I remembered what Harry Gant taught me how to move them out of the way. It was just a basic short track move. What Jeff did to my brother here was cool because it was on the last lap and Rusty really wanted to win that race bad."
   Wallace, who finished second in this event a year ago, made an early race charge coming from his eighth starting position up to second by lap 80. After falling back to fifth after pit stops, Wallace was back in second on lap 177. He closed to the back bumper of Gordon on lap 193. Lapped traffic enabled Wallace to erase a three car length deficit on lap 226, setting up the winning pass.
   Polesitter Shane Sieg battled back from a one-lap penalty imposed for too many crew members over the pit wall to finish second. "I just stayed focused and concentrated on getting back where we were," said Seig, who fell from 1st place to 13th after the infraction. "I knew we had a fast car. I really was discouraged, but my crew pumped me up. We compensated and we finished pretty good with a second place run."
   Added race winner Wallace, "It's a shame that kid didn't win. I have never seen a car go that fast at Bristol Motor Speedway. If not for that pit stop, he would have won by a half a lap."
   Defending race champion Jeff Fultz took third place honors after deciding on the new tires. Fultz has had an eventful summer stretch, working as a crewman for the No. 77 Dave Blaney Winston Cup team and driving to an ARCA win in May at Charlotte.
   "It's just so tough to pass with these restrictor-plates we run at Bristol," said Fultz. "We were so loose on the long runs. On the long runs, we could get underneath people. We had two tires left at the end of the race and there were only five cars running on the lead lap. We took a gamble.
   "We were hoping that everyone would come in besides Kenny and we could get out of the pits with fresh tires and right on him. Only two guys come in and it made it tough to stay with him. Shane Sieg had the dominant car all night."
   Randy Gentry, not to be confused with the lead singer of the group Alabama, looked to play some Mountain Music, climbing up to the second position. However, he hit a sour note on lap 151 when his No. 09 had a flat right rear tire. Steering problems eliminated him from the event.
   An accident on lap 38 involving five cars red-flagged the event for several minutes. Steven Howard was transported to Bristol Regional Medical Center following the accident, but was unhurt. The accident did force the retirement of Howard's and Ken Weaver's cars.
   Sieg led from his pole position run to lap 102 before the penalty assessed handed the number one position to Chris Davidson. Davidson was in front for the next 41 circuits before Gordon scooted by. Seig's rocket ship of a car was evident when he passed Davidson to get back on the lead circuit on lap 120.
   Former race winner Toby Porter's hopes went up in smoke one lap later when his engine exploded as he nailed the throttle coming off turn four. Attrition was unusually high on this night with only 11 of the 32 cars that started the race still running at the end.
   All that didn't matter to Kenny Wallace, who started off his Bristol race week with the Charter/Hardee's 250 win, his first win in an official stock car race, since taking the checkered flag for a Busch Series event last November at Rockingham, N.C.