Mark Martin made his first victory in stock car racing's annual all-star event a stunning one, winning The Winston on Saturday night when Jeff Gordon ran out of gas on the final lap.
Gordon appeared to be the class of the field in the 70-lap event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and he was leading by about 10 car-lengths and was pulling away when he slowed going into the first turn on the last lap.Martin, headed for what appeared to be an outclassed second-place finish, zipped past Gordon while a shocked crowd of 160,000 stood and screamed.
"They had it won. We lucked out," said Martin, who won $257,500. "I don't think that we would have ever caught them, but that doesn't matter."
Bobby Labonte was second and Dale Jarrett finished third.
Gordon, bidding for his third victory in The Winston in four years, appeared to make a winning move in the pits between the second and third segments. But minutes later, he contributed to his own demise.
Gordon and the rest of the contenders were overpowered by Martin in the second segment, so five of them took on just two tires. Martin took on four, and the extra time meant he wound up near the back of the field for the restart.
Gordon, lined up first for the restart, appeared to get an excellent jump on the field to start the last segment, but NASCAR officials ruled that he had accelerated too soon, and they ordered another restart.
As it turned out, the extra laps needed to reset the field and line up for a second restart ended up using up too much fuel for Gordon.
He was the only driver who ran out of gas, and he didn't even try to make it back to take the checkered flag. He simply guided his silent, slow-coasting car into the garage area, parked it and walked to his team's trailer.
"It's pretty embarrassing," he said. "At the white flag we started sputtering, and there was nothing I could do. Everyone did a great job. We just ran out of gas."
Gordon led twice for 36 laps and Martin led twice for 31 laps, including all 30 in the second segment.
They were two of just 12 drivers running at the end of the race, which began with 20 competitors but quickly turned into a battle of attrition. The drivers who weren't around for the end included Dale Earnhardt, whose night ended in an emergency room for precautionary X-rays, and Terry Labonte, whose night ended in flames.
FIRST UNION 200: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his second pole of the season and career in qualifying Saturday for the First Union 200 NASCAR Busch Grand National race at Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth, Pa.
Earnhardt, the 28th of 43 cars to try a lap on a 90-degree afternoon, drove his Chevrolet over the 0.946-mile oval at a speed of 128.558 mph.
NHRA PRO STOCK: At Englishtown, N.J., Kurt Johnson won the NHRA Pro Stock Challenge and Larry Kopp was a winner in Pro Stock Truck at the Mopar Parts Nationals on Saturday.
In addition, Gary Scelzi, Cruz Pedregon, Johnson and Matt Hines were the qualifying leaders in their respective professional categories entering Sunday's final eliminations at the $1.6-million race, the eighth of 22 events in the $30 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.