The Weekly Outlook on Bristol
The good news for Winston Cup drivers is that Rusty Wallace did not practice at Bristol last week. The bad news: It won't make a difference Sunday in the Food City 500.
Wallace simply dominates on the .533-mile oval. The 1989 Cup champ has nine victories here, including six in the spring race.
"We certainly did want to get those two days of testing in last week, but the weather just didn't cooperate with us," said Wallace, who enters this weekend fourth in points, trailing leader Sterling Marlin by 148. "We thought we were just a tick off in the qualifying and in the races at Bristol last season and hoped to work on that. But the fact is that we're carrying a ton of momentum going into Bristol and that means a whole lot."
In 36 career Bristol races, Wallace is the statistical leader among active drivers, recording the nine wins, seven poles, 19 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s. He won both Bristol races during the 2000 season.
"We've had so much success at Bristol that we always come there looking to qualify up front, lead the most laps and head to victory lane when the thing is over," said Wallace, who has at least one victory in 16 consecutive seasons. "In the spring race there last year, we didn't lead any laps, but I think we were stronger than that seventh-place finished showed.
"It's like a home track for us and we're always so pumped up for the Bristol races," Wallace said. "We have so much history behind us at Bristol -- nine wins and seven poles ... it's where I won my first and my 50th race. What else can I say about the place?"
Sterling Marlin -- He went from 39th to first in winning the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington. Marlin overcame a pre-race engine problem to become the first driver this season to win two races. He also has three of Dodge's 11 top-five finishes this year.
Kevin Harvick -- He posted his first top-10 finish of the season at Darlington, finishing third after a 16th-place start, only the second race in which he completed all the laps. Harvick climbed nine sports in points, to 23rd, the biggest jump of the week.
Jeff Gordon -- One of only three drivers currently in the the top 10 in points who has complete 100 percent of the laps this season. (Sterling Marlin and Ryan Newman are the other two.) That type of consistency is why he will contend for his fifth championship.
Dale Jarrett -- Maybe UPS should insist he drive the truck. While DJ may be Bad to the Brown (as George Thorogood sings in the year's best racing commercial), he simply hasn't delivered. His average start is 18th, but his average finish is 23rd.
Flattery -- Kyle Petty: To borrow a phrase from Sports Illustrated: This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse ... Petty has posted consecutive top-15 finishes. He followed up a 15 at Atlanta with a 14 last week at Darlington. Say it ain't so!
Flag -- Ward Burton: Does the Daytona 500 winner have stock in Six Flags? Burton's roller coaster season has seen finishes of first and seventh, but there have also been a 13, 21 and 31 -- at Darlington -- tossed in. He fell five spots, to eighth, this week.
Flattery -- Elliott Sadler: He earned that elusive first career victory in this race last year, after Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon tangled on the last lap. Sadler is coming off his second runner-up finish of the season and currently is 13th in points.
Flag -- Jimmy Spencer: "Mr. Excitement" has been anything but in 2002. He missed the Daytona 500, and has finished better than 20th only once in four other races -- despite starting spots of 12th or better. All these troubles have Spencer languishing in 35th place.
In the pits
Winston Cup -- Dale Jarrett has finished just three of the five races this season. ... Darrell Waltrip leads all drivers with 12 wins at Bristol. ... Jeff Gordon has won four of the last seven spring races at Bristol. ... Steve Park set the track record for fastest qualifying speed at 126.370 mph in 2000.
Busch -- Bristol has played host to the Busch series since the inception of the circuit in 1982, but no spring race was held in 1984. ... Morgan Shepherd leads with four wins at Bristol. ... Steve Grissom won from the 28th starting position in 1995, the furthest back of any Bristol Busch winner.