RICHMOND, SEPT. 9 -- Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin took their Winston Cup season championship duel to the front of the field for the final 53 laps of today's 300-mile race, the Miller Genuine Draft 400. Earnhardt's gamble on gas mileage paid off as he took first before more than 60,000 at Richmond International Raceway, a record turnout for a sporting event in Richmond.
The three-time Winston Cup champion shook off tenacious Martin to win by .43 seconds and cut Martin's lead in the standings to 16 with seven races left. Despite struggling early, Earnhardt averaged 95.567 mph in claiming his eighth win this season. Running out of gas at the finish, he coasted into victory lane.
Martin, who won the February race here, leads Earnhardt in the point standings 3,344 to 3,328 as they head to Dover, Del., next week.
"The car was a little on the tight side all day and I don't think it was the fastest at the end there," said Earnhardt, who started sixth. "But we felt we could beat them with gas mileage."
Darrell Waltrip drove a surprisingly strong race, his first since shattering his left leg in an accident at Daytona in early July. Driving with an 18-inch metal bar in his leg, he ran among the leaders all race before finishing third. "I've got to get up to first, but third is . . . not bad for the first day on the job and walking with a pair of crutches," he said.
Bill Elliott finished fourth, followed by Wallace, Dick Trickle, Ricky Rudd and Geoff Bodine.
The lead changed hands 17 times, with Earnhardt and defending Winston Cup champion Rusty Wallace trading the front spot 12 times. But when Wallace pitted on Lap 347 for tires and gas, Martin took his first lead since Lap 78 with Earnhardt settling in behind.
Martin, who had pitted along with Earnhardt on Lap 276, stayed in front until 375 when he stopped for gas, surrendering a 4.9-second lead over Earnhardt.
Earnhardt completed the final 124 laps without a stop and held off Martin for his 47th career Winston Cup victory. "We were lucky to win this race," he said. His crew "figured the gas mileage and they said we could go. That's all I needed. I had my fingers crossed."
Martin, who dropped off the lead lap with an ill-timed pit stop on lap 100, almost had his day ended when Chad Little lost control in Turn 3 on Lap 243, igniting a multi-car tangle.
Little and Brett Bodine ended up in the wall between Turns 3 and 4 with Martin narrowly escaping with only sheet metal damage. Little, with a possible concussion and an ankle injury, was taken to St. Mary's Hospital for X-rays and observation and was released. Ken Schrader, also involved, was able to continued and finished 10th. when Dale Jarrett slammed into it.RESULTS
1, (6) Dale Earnhardt, Doolie, N.C., Chevrolet Lumina, 400 laps, $59,225, 95.567 mph; 2, (7) Mark Martin, Greensboro, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 400, $30,550; 3, (27) Darrell Waltrip, Franklin, Tenn., Chevrolet Lumina, 400, $25,107; 4, (16) Bill Elliott, Dawsonville, Ga., Ford Thunderbird, 400, $16,950; 5, (11) Rusty Wallace, Concord, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 400, $19,525; 6, (9) Kyle Petty, High Point, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 400, $11,875; 7, (5) Dick Trickle, Iron Station, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 400, $9,900; 8, (14) Ricky Rudd, Chesapeake, Va., Chevrolet Lumina, 399, $8,350; 9, (10) Geoff Bodine, Julian, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 399, $10,850; 10, (3) Ken Schrader, Concord, N.C., Chevrolet Lumina, 399, $15,930.
11, (30) Bobby Hillin Jr., Harrisburg, N.C., Buick Regal, 399, $7,450; 12, (1) Ernie Irvan, Concord, N.C., Chevrolet Lumina, 399, $13,875; 13, (31) x-Hut Stricklin, Calera, Ala., Buick Regal, 399, $5,350; 14, (2) Michael Waltrip, Huntersville, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 398, $6,725; 15, (23) Dave Marcis, Avery's Creek, N.C., Chevrolet Lumina, 397, $6,975; 16, (8) Davey Allison, Hueytown, Ala., Ford Thunderbird, 396, $9,550; 17, (12) Terry Labonte, Archdale, N.C., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 396, $6,100; 18, (24) Jimmy Means, Forest City, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 396, $4,450; 19, (34) Butch Miller, Coopersville, Mich., Chevrolet Lumina, 395, $4,225; 20, (19) Rick Wilson, Lake Norman, N.C., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 394, $6,325.
21, (26) Richard Petty, Randleman, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 394, $4,075; 22, (32) Charlie Glotzbach, Palmyra, Ind., Ford Thunderbird, 394, $3,100; 23, (29) Greg Sacks, Winter Park, Fla., Chevrolet Lumina, 384, $3,075; 24, (17) Sterling Marlin, Columbia, Tenn., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 393, $5,225; 25, (33) Ron Esau, Lakeside, Calif., Chevrolet Lumina, 383, $3,050; 26, (4) Alan Kulwicki, Charlotte, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 354, $5,905; 27, (25) Jimmy Spencer, Berwick, Pa., Pontiac Grand Prix, 318, $5,055; 28, (35) Rob Moroso, Charlotte, N.C., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 273, crash, $4,225; 29, (13) Dale Jarrett, Conover, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 272, crash, $4,355; 30, (18) Morgan Shepherd, Conover, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 270, engine failure, $5,100.
31, (15) Brett Bodine, Harrisburg, N.C., Buick Regal, 242, crash, $4,310; 32, (21) Chad Little, Charlotte, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 239, crash, $3,480; 33, (36) D.K. Ulrich, Charlotte, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 185, engine failure, $4,265; 34, (28) Mickey Gibbs, Glencoe, Ala., Ford Thunderbird, 160, crash, $2,805; 35, (20) Derrike Cope, Kings Mountain, N.C., Chevrolet Lumina, 120, engine failure, $7,355; 36, (22) Harry Gant, Taylorsville, N.C., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 12, engine failure, $8,855 (Gant relieved Stricklin due to illness.)
Time of race: 3:08:11; Margin of victory: 0.43 seconds; Caution flags: 9 for 55 laps; Lead changes: 17 among 6 drivers; Lap leaders: Irvan 1-33; Kulwicki 34-76; Martin 77-78; Kulwicki 79-101; Schrader 102-123; Wallace 124-163; Earnhardt 164-236; Wallace 237-240; Earnhardt 241-276; Wallace 277-287; Earnhardt 288-303; Wallace 304; Earnhardt 305-310; Wallace 311; Earnhardt 312-328; Wallace 329-346; Martin 347-375; Earnhardt 376-400.
Italian Grand Prix:
Ayrton Senna, driving a McLaren-Honda, beat Alain Prost's Ferrari in Monza, Italy. It was the sixth Grand Prix win this season and 26th of Senna's career.
The win gave Senna 72 points and extended his World Championship points lead to 16 over defending champion Prost with four races left.
Senna, who started from the pole, led throughout the 53-lap, 191.009-mile race and Prost never threatened, finishing 6.054 seconds back. Gerhard Berger was third, 7.4 seconds behind teammate Senna, and Nigel Mansell, in a Ferrari, was fourth.