Rusty Wallace started on the pole, with Jeff Gordon next to him. Rusty has won 8 times at Bristol, the most recent coming this year in the spring. He has stated several times that he loves Bristol. He certainly showed it. Rusty won the race, leading the most laps;277.
Several cars had to start at the back of the pack instead of where they qualified. Jerry Nadeau, Brett Bodine, and Michael Waltrip all wrecked their cars during practice and had to go to their backup cars. Nadeau had qualified 5th, while Bodine and Waltrip were to start 14th and 19th respectively. Geoffrey Bodine also had to start at the back of the field as his brother, Todd, had qualified the #60 car on Friday. Geoffrey made the decision not to qualify himself when he got dizzy during practice. Apparently, he was still feeling some aftereffects of his horrific crash at Daytona during the Craftsman Truck race in February. He stated that he felt fine enough to drive Saturday night. Four drivers did not make the field; #27-Mike Bliss, Hut Stricklin, #85 Carl Long, and #50 Ricky Craven.
The first of 13 cautions came on lap 30 when Steve Park spun. He managed to keep the #1 car out of the wall, but the incident caused Ward Burton to let off the throttle. He was then tapped from behind and spun. Burton pitted for new tires. The restart came on lap 34. Michael Waltrip's car stalled on the restart. The primary ignition box stopped working. He switched to the secondary ignition box and the #7 started.
The cautions, for the most part, were caused by one or two car spinouts. The most spectacular incident of the night came on the 11th caution with 104 laps to go. Scott Pruett tapped Robert Pressley and the #77 car hit the wall hard, bursting into a ball of flames. Pressey climbed out of his car and walked away uninjured.
Early into the race, the points leader began to have trouble. He had started in 32nd, having to pit on the backstretch. While his car was good, the driver was not. He began complaining of severe cramps in his right leg and foot and that his neck was stiff. During a caution, one could see Bobby shaking his hand as if it had fallen asleep. He asked his crew chief, Jimmy Makar, if there were any drivers out of the race that could relieve him. There was talk of maybe Dave Blaney putting his firesuit back on. Blaney's car had been out of contention since lap 50 when he and Brett Bodine tangled, the #93 car coming out looking the worst. He was done for the night. Bobby also complained that his whole left side was numb, but that he was "going to finish the race himself if it killed him." Labonte finished 15th, one lap down. In doing so, he lost 20 points to second place Dale Jarrett.
Jeff Gordon was running in the top five all night until, with 239 laps to go, he radioed his crew and said that something was wrong with the engine. Two laps later, he called again and said "we're blowing up." Gordon fans watched, dismayed, as the #24 Dupont Chevy started sliding backwards quickly. He ended up 23rd, one lap down.
The lead was changed several times between Rusty and Stewart. Martin led for a while. Other cars led a lap or two during pit stops. On lap 417, Ted Musgrave, driving the #01 BellSouth Chevy, was tapped by EarnhardtJr., spun, losing a lap in the process. Musgrave was having a great run, starting in 42nd, and moving his way into the top ten. He stayed there for most of the race. Wonder if Ganassi/Sabco will look at him closely for next year?
On lap 454, Jr. spun and brought out the 13th caution of the night. BobbyHamilton raced back to the finish to try to get his lap back. Rusty slowed down to let him by, but Hamilton ran smack into the back of Mayfield. When ESPN talked to Hamilton afterwards, he said that he saw a whole and took advantage, running over the #12 car. The leaders pit. Ward Burton took 2 tires for track position and came out with the lead. Martin, Stewart and Wallace all took 4 tires. Earnhardt beat the #2 out of the pits, but had to go back in because there was a lugnut missing. Burton led for a few laps until Wallace retook the lead with 37 to go. Everyone else then drove right by the #22. He ended up 11th, the last car on the lead lap.
Stewart almost caught Rusty in the closing laps, but lap cars worked to Rusty's advantage. He took off and crossed the start/finish line first. In Victory Lane, Rusty praised his crew, which must be a switch for them, and then stated his now famous, tired, old line: "We had a fast hot rod tonight!"
Martin and Ward Burton switched places in the points. Labonte now leads Jarrett by 91 points with Earnhardt, Jeff Burton, Rusty Wallace, Stewart, Rudd, Martin, Ward Burton, and Jeff Gordon rounding out the top ten. Next week, we go to Darlington, South Carolina's "track to tough to tame". Jeff has won 4 straight Southern 500's. Let's hope for his 5th win at the famed track!
Jeff stayed at 10th in the points standings, 604 points behind leader Bobby Labonte.