Bill Elliott won the Firecracker 400 Saturday, while Rick Wilson wound up with smear of red paint on the side of his yellow car and second place. The results were related.
Elliott, who qualified 38th in the 42-car lineup, came to the front of the field just 23 laps from the end, then held on to beat Wilson by 18 inches in a fender-rubbing finish."The car just wouldn't run very fast drafting with anybody else or running by itself, but with (Wilson's) car behind me, this car would fly."
Elliott said his victory in the 400-mile, 160-lap race at Daytona International Speedway "was just a miracle, that's all there is to it."
He struggled to qualify for the race, barely avoided a seven-car accident on the second lap and nearly went a lap down before a caution flag on lap 110.
The two drove bumper-to-bumper at the head of the field from lap 138, when Elliott went into the lead, until the last lap of the race.
That's when Wilson tried to squeeze his yellow Oldsmobile Cutlass past Elliott's red Ford Thunderbird in the final two turns.
The challenger, who never had finished better than seventh in a Winston Cup race, nosed ahead coming off the fourth turn, but Elliott held his ground and the two cars rubbed together, puffs of smoke flying into the air as the crowd estimated at more than 80,000 stood and cheered wildly.
"You help each other get to the last lap, then you do what you can to win the race," Elliott said.
Wilson said, "It was for the win, so I was going to do the touching if he was. But he just beat me."
The winner led the final 23 laps on the 2.5-mile, high-banked oval, capturing the 26th victory of his NASCAR stock car career and his series-leading third of the season.
Elliott averaged 163.302 mph as he earned the winner's share of $63,500 from a total purse of $549,020.
To get his first Firecracker victory, Elliott came from farther back than any winner in the 30 years that the race has been run. The previous mark was held by Bobby Isaac, who won from 21st in 1971.
Phil Parsons wound up third, followed by two-time defending Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt and pole-winner Darrell Waltrip.
At Cleveland, Danny Sullivan shattered a one-lap track record Saturday, averaging 138.068 miles per hour to capture his third pole position of the season in leading the qualifying for the Budweiser Cleveland Grand Prix.
Sullivan, driving a Miller High Life Penske-Chevrolet, easily eclipsed the 136.287 mph record set by Roberto Guerrero of Colombia, the 1987 pole-sitter. Sullivan, 38, was timed in 64.664 seconds over the 12-turn, 2.48-mile Burke Lakefront Airport layout, nearly a second faster than teammate Rick Mears.
The Roger Penske team has had the fastest qualifying time in five of the six CART races this season. Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500, could not improve on the 136.054 mph he achieved in Friday's qualifying in his Pennzoil Z-7 Penske-Chevrolet.
Mario Andretti qualified third with 135.262 mph in his Amoco/K-Mart Lola-Chevrolet. Bobby Rahal could not better the 134.954 mph he reached Friday, and dropped to fourth. Arie Luyendyk bettered his Friday effort with 134.876 mph for the fifth spot on the starting grid. Rounding out the top 10 are defending champion Emerson Fittipaldi of Brazil, Michael Andretti, Didier Theys of Belgium, Derek Daly of Ireland and Al Unser Jr.
At Watkins Glen, N.Y., Geoff Brabham won the pole position for today's Camel Continental IMSA Camel GT sports car race at Watkins Glen International, shattering the track record Saturday with a lap of 128.326 mph in a Nissan GTP prototype.
Brabham, a native of Australia now living in Noblesville, Ind., broke Davy Jones' 1986 track record of 124.487 mph around the 3.377-mile road course. Brabham's lap time was 1 minute, 34.742 seconds. The pole was his fourth in five starts this year and the 10th of his career.
Brabham will team with John Morton of El Seguno, Calif., in Sunday's 500-kilometer race. Brabham has won a record-tying four straight Camel GT races.
At Le Castellet, France, Alain Prost of France held on to win the pole position for today's French Grand Prix, his first pole in more than two years, and ended Brazilian Ayrton Senna's six-race streak as the top qualifier.
Prost on Saturday retained the lead he had after Friday's session by averaging 126.222 mph on his fastest run over the 2.3-mile course, which he toured in 1 minute, 7.589 seconds.
Senna, a Prost teammate, qualified second with a run of 1:08.067.
Senna won the first six pole positions this season, tying a record set by Britain's Stirling Moss and Austria's Niki Lauda.
It was the 17th pole of Prost's career but his first since the Monaco Grand Prix in 1986. Still he has the all-time record in Grand Prix victories with 31.
"I had no problems on my first set of tires when I produced my best time," Prost said. "I pushed very hard and the car worked very well."