Originally created 09/30/97

Burton wins Hanes 500



MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) - Driving on a track 60 miles from his hometown, Jeff Burton took advantage of a mistake by Rusty Wallace and held off a challenge by Dale Earnhardt to win the Hanes 500 Monday.

First, Wallace was penalized for going too fast on a restart with 23 laps to go, then Earnhardt made a strong move, but Burton, who grew up in South Boston, Va., held him off.

"I feel sorry for Rusty, but I'm even more proud of my guys and myself for doing a good job," said Burton, who spent 21/2 days testing at Martinsville Speedway in early September.

"Rusty and I had a great race. That was a lot of fun. And then Bobby (Hamilton) and I had a great race. That's what makes it fun."

It was Burton's third victory of the season, and it came in an atmosphere where fans seemed unsure whether to root for the local hero or Earnhardt, the seven-time Winston Cup champion in the throes of a 53-race winless streak.

When Wallace headed to the pits to serve his penalty, the crowd roared. And when Earnhardt passed Hamilton for second place with five laps remaining, they roared again in anticipation of a duel to the finish.

But Burton never let it happen. He maintainred a comfortable advantage and beat Earnhardt to the finish by .778 seconds. It was the second straight runner-up showing for Earnhardt, winless since March 1996 at Atlanta.

"We're getting close. It's just a matter of time," he said.

Hamilton was third, followed by points leader Jeff Gordon and Bill Elliott. Kenny Wallace finished sixth and pole-sitter Ward Burton, the winner's brother, matched his best showing of the season by placing seventh.

Mark Martin, who started second and was hoping to trim Gordon's 105-point lead in the driver's standings, instead finished 11th and lost 30 points.

Burton's victory also gave Ford the manufacturer's title. Fords have won 17 of 27 races this year, with Gordon winning the other 10 in his Chevrolet.

That it was Burton, and not Wallace, who provided the clincher was a lot of luck for the rising star of the Jack Roush Winston Cup racing stable.

"Rusty was good on short runs," Burton said. "To say that we could have beaten him would be a ridiculous statement. I think we could have run back to him, but what would have happened then, I have no idea."

Wallace is a master of Martinsville Speedway's tight, .526-mile oval, and he had withstood everything Burton tried for most of the final 200 laps until NASCAR officials assessed him a stop-and-go penalty for the restart jump.

It came after oil on the track caused a two-car crash on lap 468, the 11th caution of a race slowed for 91 laps by yellow flags. In all, eight of the 42 starters didn't finish, and almost every car got banged up.

On the restart, Wallace accelerated before the established acceleration point and roared by the pace car before it was off the track.

NASCAR officials said they had warned Wallace's team at least twice to watch their restarts before penalizing him. Wallace was furious after the race, in which he led three times for 220 laps, but wound up 15th.

"That's a real kick in the stomach, because this one is just a technicality," said Wallace, who has won only once this season and is 13th in points. "To do something that brutal was totally uncalled for."

Burton said he sympathized with Wallace, but was happy to cash in.

"When a guy does something and gets black-flagged and has to move out of the way, that's the easist way to pass him," he said.

The race, postponed by rain Sunday, drew an estimated 69,000 of the 71,000 ticket-holders.