By KEVIN KELLY
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 22, 2000
For someone with 49 career wins and a Winston Cup championship, Rusty Wallace began the 2000 season with modest goals.
"I started the year off and said, "Man, the way competition is in NASCAR nowadays, if you can win two races you're really doing something," he said.
Wallace won seven pole positions and led a series-best 883 laps in the first 18 races but had one victory, the Food City 500 on March 26.
Thanks to a four-race stretch in which he has won two races (the Pennsylvania 500 on July 23 and the Pepsi 400 on Sunday) and finished second in another (Brickyard 400 on Aug. 5), the 1989 series champion has surpassed those preseason goals.
"I tell you, I was really getting tired of people saying, "When are you going to win another race? You know, you've only won once?' " Wallace said. "Just this morning at hospitality and the guy says, "You lead all day long and then you fade back to nothing.' And I said, "Man, that's just not a good way to start the day.' But he's a customer and I've got to be nice. Hopefully he left today going, "Hey, that's what he's supposed to do.' "
Wallace is fifth in the points standings -- 352 behind leader Bobby Labonte and 100 behind fourth-place driver Jeff Burton -- with 12 races left.
"I see myself in the points race. I really do," Wallace said. "I think we're one of the contenders. Some of those guys need to have some bad luck. ... We're running strong and keep the pressure up on these guys. You never know. At the end of the day, we might be close enough and can get it done."
MORE FORCE: Nine-time Funny Car champion John Force beat Jim Epler for his eighth win of the season in the Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals Sunday at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway.
The victory extended Force's lead over Jerry Toliver, who lost in the first round of eliminations, to 160 points.
"All I have to do is not qualify and he is right back in the lead again." said Force, who extended his series record for career wins to 89. "In 1992 against Cruz (Pedregon), we had a 1,200 point lead. We went into test mode and Cruz won five races in a row. He won Seattle, Sonoma, Brainerd, Indy, Reading and I couldn't get past the first round without tipping over onto my roof."
CLOSING GROUND: The chase for the CART championship is suddenly wide open with six races remaining.
The top six drivers are separated by 25 points after the Motorola 200 Sunday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
Leader Michael Andretti, who finished 18th because of a broken CV joint, had his lead cut to 13 points over Roberto Moreno. Moreno leapfrogged Gil de Ferran, who broke a gearbox on the second lap.
"What a disappointment -- this one hurts," Andretti said. "There are now a lot of other guys that can gang up on us in the point standings. The fans should like the tight points race, but it's not as fun for us."
FARR UPDATE: Tampa sprint car driver Shaun Farr, who was seriously injured in a crash on July 15 at Florida Speed Park in St. Augustine, was moved to Tampa General Hospital on Aug. 16.
The 17-year-old, who was the Tampa Bay Area Racing Association's rookie of the year last season, is listed in serious but stable condition.
The TBARA will hold a benefit barbecue for Farr at noon on Sept. 10 at East Bay Raceway. Proceeds from an auction will go toward paying Farr's medical bills.
PIT STOPS: Homestead-Miami Speedway will open its gates Sept. 17 to allow fans to purchase seats for the Miami 300 Busch Grand National event on Nov. 11 and the Pennzoil 400 Winston Cup race on Nov. 12. For information, call (305) 230-7223 or go to http://www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com. ... An estimated 100,000 fans came out to Eurospeedway in Lausitz, Germany, on Sunday to watch Bryan Herta make the first laps around the new 2-mile oval. CART will race there Sept. 15, 2001.
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.