INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2002 -- Bill Elliott finally broke through for his first Brickyard 400 victory, passing Rusty Wallace with 12 laps remaining to take the lead for good Aug. 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The victory ended a...
INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2002 -- Bill Elliott finally broke through for his first Brickyard 400 victory, passing Rusty Wallace with 12 laps remaining to take the lead for good Aug. 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The victory ended a string of near misses in this event for Elliott, who had five top-eight finishes entering the ninth annual NASCAR Winston Cup Series at the historic 2.5-mile oval, including two third-place finishes.
"It's the greatest," Elliott said. "Man, it's the greatest."
Elliott, from Dawsonville, Ga., beat Wallace to the finish by 1.269 seconds in his No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge. He averaged 125.033 mph, and it was the first win by a Dodge in this event.
Matt Kenseth finished third in the No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford. Indiana native Ryan Newman was fourth and the top-finishing rookie in the No. 12 ALLTEL Ford, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five in the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet.
Elliott, 46, became the oldest driver to win the Brickyard 400. He dominated most of the race after starting second, leading 93 of 160 laps and holding a lead as large as 4.64 seconds on Lap 121.
But it appeared late in the race that Wallace, now a three-time runner-up in this event, might be the driver breaking through for the elusive first win, not Elliott.
Mark Martin led a restart on Lap 134 in his No. 6 Pfizer/Viagra Ford, but pole sitter Tony Stewart wasted little time passing Martin for the lead on that lap, easing his No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2. Elliott was fifth on the restart.
Wallace took the lead on Lap 137, pushing his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford under Stewart entering Turn 3. Elliott passed Stewart for second entering Turn 3 on Lap 139 and then began stalking Wallace.
Elliott trailed Wallace by .749 of a second on Lap 139 but closed the gap to .215 of a second by Lap 147. Wallace pushed his car too deep into Turn 2 on Lap 149, letting Elliott pull even on the inside on the back straightaway. Elliott nosed under Wallace entering Turn 3 and took the lead for good.
"When Bill (Elliott) passed me, I was just getting too loose," Wallace said. "I was tight all day long. The last stop, we took a bunch of wedge out, put a bunch of air in the right-rear tire. We were smoking down the straightaway, big horsepower, and I said, 'Man, I don't think he can catch me.'
"Then with 10 laps to go, I got up off of Turn 2, and I got loose. He stuck his nose underneath, and the aero push kicked in, and I couldn't do nothing."
Said Elliott: "I kept working on him, working on him, and I felt like if I could ever get to him, I'd be OK. I finally got to him and got him a little loose and was able to power under him."
Wallace had one final chance on a restart on Lap 157 after the final caution period, but Elliott pulled away easily for the win.
Stewart ended up 12th. Defending event champion Jeff Gordon finished sixth in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet.
Points leader Sterling Marlin finished 27th in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge, one of an event-record 30 cars on the lead lap at the finish. Rookie Jimmie Johnson climbed to second in the Winston Cup point standings with his ninth-place finish in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet.
Mike Wallace, Brett Bodine, Kurt Busch, Geoffrey Bodine, Casey Atwood and Elliott Sadler were unhurt in accidents. All were separate accidents except for an early crash between Wallace and Brett Bodine.
Wallace and Bodine collided in Turn 2 on Lap 11, as Wallace's No. 14 Conseco Pontiac owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt became the first stock car to hit the SAFER Barrier.
"If I did hit the barrier -- I wasn't sure if I hit the barrier or the concrete wall -- I guess I'm glad I hit that because it hit a ton just then," Wallace said. "So I'm glad it was there."