Rusty Wallace took advantage of a near-perfect pit stop with fewer than 20 laps remaining Sunday to win the NASCAR Pontiac 400 by a half-second over Alan Kulwicki.
Wallace, who has won two of the first four Grand National races of the season, beat Kulwicki and Dale Earnhardt off pit road after a caution on lap 380. When racing resumed on lap 384, Wallace broke to a lead of five car lengths and held off Kulwicki down the stretch.Wallace, driving a Pontiac, picked up $63,025 for the victory, the 12th of his career.
Kulwicki, who led 108 of the 400 laps on the three-quarter-mile tri-oval at Richmond International Raceway, finished second in a Ford and earned $28,625. Dale Earnhardt was third in a Chevrolet. Ricky Rudd, the final driver on the lead lap, was fourth in a Buick.
Wallace and Kulwicki dominated the second half of the race, with Kulwicki taking the lead on lap 267 and leading 104 of the next 106 laps. The pair traded the lead several times under the green flag in the late stages of the race.
When Dick Trickle blew an engine in the first turn on lap 380, Wallace and Kulwicki both pitted for a four-tire change and Wallace won the sprint off pit road.
"I radioed the pit crew when the caution came out and told them to give me a good pit stop and they did," said Wallace. "To be honest, had it not been for the caution I would not have won the race. Alan had the quicker car on hot tires."
Once Wallace retook the lead with 16 laps remaining, he figured he had the race won if he could stay out of trouble.
"Track position is a big thing here at Richmond. I knew if I could get back out in front of Alan, I would be in good shape," said Wallace, who led five times for a total of 88 laps on the day. "I knew Alan didn't run that well on cold tires. So the last several laps I was driving conservative. I could have run harder, but there was no need to."
For Kulwicki, the final laps were an instant replay of the Goodwrench 500, the second race of the season. He led a good portion of that event and had the strongest car in the field when Wallace beat him off pit road twice late in the race. Wallace went on to win that race and Kulwicki finished second.