Stewart wins at Martinsville

Martinsville, VA---In the tight confines of the .526-mile Martinsville Speedway, race fans sit right on top of the action and Sunday, some of them may have helped Tony Stewart win the $2,115,007 NAPA AutoCare 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race. Stewart...

Martinsville, VA---In the tight confines of the .526-mile Martinsville Speedway, race fans sit right on top of the action and Sunday, some of them may have helped Tony Stewart win the $2,115,007 NAPA AutoCare 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race. Stewart held off Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Burton in the final 11 laps to win another slam-bang battle on the historic 53-year-old track. The driver of the Home Depot Pontiac finished .672 seconds in front of Earnhardt, with Burton third and Ricky Rudd fourth. Defending race champion Jeff Gordon was fifth.

"I just want to thank three guys in the back grandstand who kept booing me," Stewart said. "That just made me more determined and they played a part in this victory. They just kept making gestures and that just made me more determined." Stewart, with five wins and two in a row, now has won more races than anyone this season. It was his first victory at Martinsville.

Fifteen cars finished on the lead lap and 34 were running at the finish although all were damaged or had tire marks on the side. "I couldn't catch him at the end," Earnhardt said. "It was a good race. I have to congratulate Tony. He drove his butt off. I gained in the points so that's pretty good." Earnhardt gained 36 points with his second place finish in the Winston Cup Championship battle. Leader Bobby Labonte, his right front fender crushed by a bump on pit road and the victim of a spinout, finished tenth and now leads Earnhardt by 213 points with six races left.

"To come out of Martinsville with everything that happened today, it could have been a lot worse," Labonte said. "It was typical Martinsville. The front end didn't get torn up on the race track. That happened in the deal on pit road where everybody stopped and I didn't. The back bumper got knocked off a few times but that's typical here."

Thirteen caution flags for 88 laps held Stewart's speed to 73.859 miles per hour after he qualified on the Bud Pole with a speed of 95.371 miles per hour.. There were 12 lead changes among seven drivers with Burton leading 202 laps, Stewart 179, Rusty Wallace 53, Ricky Rudd 37, Sterling Marlin 27, Michael Waltrip one and Ricky Craven one. Eleven-time Martinsville winner Darrell Waltrip, making his final start here before launching a television career at the end of the season, finished 27th while Elliott Sadler, making the 1,000th start for the Wood Brothers of nearby Stuart, VA, was 32nd.

Tickets for the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup races at the speedway already are on sale. The dates for 2001 are Sunday, April 8 and Sunday, October 14. Tickets may be ordered by calling toll free at 877-722-3849 or 540-956-2151.

They also may be ordered online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

Stewart, who won $125,875 and a grandfather clock as his trophy, had said in the past that Martinsville wasn't one of his favorite tracks. How about now? "It's getting better," he laughed.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Sterling Marlin , Ricky Craven , Elliott Sadler