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Weather's Perfect for Wallace, Gordon in Shortened Race

MOTOR RACING ROUNDUP

October 26, 1998|From Associated Press

The rain that shortened Sunday's Dura-Lube 500 at Phoenix couldn't shed any gloom on Rusty Wallace or Jeff Gordon.

Wallace ended a 59-race winless string, and Gordon all but clinched his third NASCAR Winston Cup championship in the race that ended 55 laps early.

"My car was so good today, every set of tires was perfect, and [whether] the sun came out or was behind the clouds, it didn't matter," Wallace said. "The car just ate up all the problems and spit 'em out the tailpipe.

"We targeted this race from the start. It was a new car, new suspension, new motor, everything. The motor was perfect today and so was the chassis. . . . We named it 'The Streaker' to keep my winning streak going."

Wallace, who hadn't won since March 1997 in Richmond, Va., now has at least one victory in 13 consecutive seasons, the second longest such streak in the series. Ricky Rudd extended his string of winning seasons to 16 earlier this year.

The 42-year-old former series champion was declared the winner after rain halted the scheduled 312-lap event after 257 trips around the one-mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway.

NASCAR officials tried to wait out the weather, but eventually had to give in to the inevitable as rain continued, thunder boomed and streaks of lightning lit up the desert track. Mark Martin, who is chasing Gordon in the points race, had taken over second place just before the race was stopped.

That left Gordon with a virtual lock on the 1998 NASCAR championship, even while his season points lead over Martin shrank from 358 to 329.

The rain, however, ended Gordon's chance to extend his string of top-five finishes to 18, which would have matched the record set by David Pearson in 1968. Gordon finished seventh.

Gordon needs only to finish 40th or better next week in Rockingham, N.C., or simply to start each of the last two races to wrap up another crown.

Wallace picked up his 48th victory, tying him for 10th on the career list with NASCAR pioneer Herb Thomas.

Ken Schrader started from the pole and led the first 53 laps before falling back into the field. Wallace took command, moving to the lead for the first time on lap 54 and leading all but eight laps thereafter.

Dale Earnhardt wound up third, followed by Jeff Burton, Ted Musgrave, John Andretti and Gordon.

Terry Labonte, who started a record 600th consecutive race, wound up 10th.

*

After setting the top-fuel elapsed-time record in qualifying, Gary Scelzi won the Revell Nationals at Ennis, Texas, for his fifth title this year.

Scelzi earned $104,000 for the victory and an additional $50,000 bonus for setting the record with a time of 4.525 seconds over the Texas Motorplex quarter-mile. In the final, Scelzi clocked 4.653 seconds to defeat Mike Dunn for the fourth time this season. Dunn lost traction and ran 8.582.

The triumph increased Scelzi's NHRA Winston points lead over Cory McClenathan with two races remaining.

John Force of Yorba Linda won the funny-car competition, and Warren Johnson won the pro-stock title.

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