Wallace sees million-dollar dream slip away Shawn A. Akers CONCORD, N.C. (May 24, 1998) All Rusty Wallace could do was shake his head. With a chance at $1 million only a few laps away Sunday night, Wallace's dreams of victory, plus the money,...
Wallace sees million-dollar dream slip away Shawn A. Akers
CONCORD, N.C. (May 24, 1998) All Rusty Wallace could do was shake his head. With a chance at $1 million only a few laps away Sunday night, Wallace's dreams of victory, plus the money, were stolen away from him.
And it was Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet team who turned out to be the thieves.
On the final pit stop of the evening, with 20 laps remaining in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Wallace was leading and decided to take on two tires, as did second-place Bobby Labonte, who also was in the hunt for the "No Bull 5" million-dollar bonus.
Gordon, however, took on four fresh Goodyears during his final tour in the pits, and that turned out to be the difference as the No. 24 Chevrolet made up four spots following the restart, then sped by both Wallace and Labonte with nine laps remaining to win his second straight Coca-Cola 600.
"I can't believe it. I can't believe he did that," Wallace said. "I thought two tires would be enough. I didn't think his four tires would run us down and catch us.
"Man, I wanted that Winston Million and I know they wanted me to have it. We tried. The car ran great. We kept adjusting the whole day. We got it better and better. At the very end it was real good, but I had two (tires) and he (Gordon) had four and he got me. That was it."
The decision had a profound affect on Miller Lite crew chief Robin Pemberton.
"Every time we do a two-tire deal, it never works for us," Pemberton said. "I think, from now on, I'm gonna stay away from two-tire changes. "I thought we'd be OK on two tires with him (Gordon) taking on four. I didn't think he'd race as hard as he did, but he sure came on like gangbusters.
"I really didn't want to see that last caution. I think when it was just between us and the 18 car (Bobby Labonte), we could have won it there."
It certainly appeared that would be the case as Labonte, who had one of the strongest cars on the race track after the sun went down, was just off Wallace's bumper when the last yellow flag flew.
It seemed that it would be Wallace, who had gone 39 races without a win, and Labonte battling it out not only for the victory, but the million dollar prize for taking the checkered flag.
"Yeah, I thought we had it," Wallace said. "I really did. I thought we were gonna run right down to the end, it was gonna be all said and done, but it didn't happen. That's a lucky sucker (Gordon). Boy I tell you what, he's good, but I thought we had it."
Wallace led the event three times for 51 laps, while Labonte led once for 12.
Both Wallace and Labonte once again will be eligible for the "No Bull 5" million at Indianapolis on Aug. 1 in the Brickyard 400, as will Gordon, Mark Martin, who finished fourth, and Dale Jarrett, who finished fifth.
"The last two cautions we didn't want to see," Labonte said. "Hey, that's the way it goes. That's part of it. We opted for two tires and that was the right call. It didn't get us the win tonight. Now we'll have to worry about Indy to go for the million again."
Source: NASCAR Online