"Rusty Wallace: 1993"
Posted by null on November 30, 2009
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Although he won his only championship in 1989, Rusty Wallace's best career season was 1993. The season opening Daytona 500 was a rough one for Wallace. Rusty started 34th and gradually moved up through the field. He was running sixth when two Daytona 500 champions, Derrike Cope(1990) and Michael Waltrip(2001, 2003) got together and clipped Rusty, flipping the Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac multiple times. However, he responded big time with a win over Dale Earnhardt in the Goodwrench 500 at Rockingham. After a second at Richmond, third at Atlanta and a fifth at Darlington, the series headed to Bristol. Overshadowed by the death of defending champion Alan Kulwicki was a dominate win from the pole by Wallace. He backed it up with two more convincing short track wins at North Wilkesboro and Martinsville.
With a brand new aero package from Pontiac, Rusty had one of his best ever runs at Talladega. Dale Earnhardt passed him coming to the caution flag with nine laps to go, following a rain shower. NASCAR red flagged the race, giving the field one more shot at Earnhardt. In one of the most famous finishes in NASCAR history, Ernie Irvan shot past Earnhardt, who got into Wallace, who flipped several times and broke his wrist. Two weeks later, his transmission failed while Earnhardt finished sixth, giving the Man in Black the point lead back which he would never surrender. After three consecutive DNFs, Wallace finished fifth at Michigan. After a mediocre run at Daytona, Rusty was 345 points behind Earnhardt. After six top tens in eight races, including wins at the inaugural race at New Hampshire and Richmond, Rusty had cut the deficit to 284. What could have turned the tables against Earnhardt, and almost did, was the SplitFire Spark Plug 500 at Dover, where Rusty crashed racing for the lead with Mark Martin with 75 laps to go, allowing Earnhardt to win.
Rusty dominated the first half of the race from the pole, but was plagued by tire issues and was two laps down. After Geoff Bodine, in his first race in the #7 car he bought after Kulwicki's death, crashed, Rusty restarted second in the lap down car line behind Hut Stricklin. Something went wrong with Sricklin's car during a shift, and Wallace turned the #27 of Stricklin into Earnhardt. Earnhardt had heavy damage and Rusty went on to get his laps back and pass Darrell Waltrip with 20 laps to go to win again. He cut 103 points off Earnhardt's lead, down to 181.
At Martinsville, Ernie Irvan dominated for the #28 car's first win since Davey Allison's death. Wallace picked up five bonus points and finished second while Earnhardt finished 29th after a rear end failure. His lead was down to 82. Wallace beat Earnhardt at North Wilkesboro, cutting the lead to 72. Rusty lost ten points at Charlotte, but gained ten points at Rockingham when he dominated the last 200 laps of the AC-Delco 500 and held off a hard charging Earnhardt for the second time at Rockingham. Rusty's charge through the points was ended at Phoenix as Rusty had a cut tire and then a broken sway bar, regulating him to a 19th place finish. Although Earnhardt clinched the championship on lap 134 of the season finale at Atlanta, Wallace dominated the race and picked up his tenth win of the season, the only time he did in his career. Although he missed the championship by 80 points, Rusty Wallace had a season most drivers would dream of in 1993.
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