BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The question was asked over and over: "Why don't you win anymore, like you used to?"
Rusty Wallace, who chalked up 10 wins in 1993 and eight more in 1994, was getting tired of answering the question.
Maybe he won't have to anymore.
Wallace, with a big assist from a gambling crew chief, Robin Pemberton, went with four new tires late in the race and won his third NASCAR race of the season Sunday by beating Ricky Rudd by 2.971 seconds in the Pepsi 400.
"Even this morning, I heard it," said Wallace, who has earned five of his 52 career victories at Michigan. "I was dealing with some customers at a breakfast, and a guy asked me that. Maybe today he went home happy."
Maybe he did.
Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart didn't, however. For them, the race turned into Round 2 of what is becoming the best soap opera on the Winston Cup.
The brash Stewart, as he did a week earlier at Watkins Glen, took Gordon into a wall, causing serious damage. That time, the two almost got in a fist fight. It wasn't quite that drastic on this occasion.
But it wasn't good, either.
Stewart was running second to Wallace when his car got loose and touched pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. on lap 37.
Earnhardt Jr. drove on, but Stewart's Pontiac began to swerve badly. The car got sideways between the first and second turns and spun into Gordon, who was trying to get past the trouble on the high side.
Gordon's multicolored Chevrolet slammed into the wall, damaging the front end, and had to be taken in to have the brakes repaired.
"I just lost it down there," Stewart said. "We were just racing hard out there. It was my fault. I just got down into one and I don't know why I got loose. I hadn't been loose there all day.
"For some reason, it just got loose that one lap down there and I crashed a bunch of people I didn't mean to crash. It was my fault. I just lost it."
Actually, the only driver he caused to crash was Gordon. But that was enough.
"I'm sure a lot of people were wondering what was going to happen with the 20 and 24," said Gordon, whose car was taken to the garage. "But it had nothing to do with this weekend at all. He was racing hard and it looked like he just got real loose.
"I saw the 20 car wiggle and it looked like it got real sideways."
Gordon eventually returned, but retired the car after completing 141 laps.
Kerry Earnhardt, making his first Winston Cup start, hit the wall on the fourth turn of his sixth lap, bringing out the first of eight caution flags for 38 laps.
"I hated to see all the kids have trouble," Dale Earnhardt Sr., Kerry's famous father, said. "But it was a good day for us. Everybody came out of here alive and well."
Wallace stopped with 30 laps to go for fuel and four new tires. The others waited until lap 173 to make their final pit stop, and only took on two tires.
"I like slapping four tires on and racing your guts out," Wallace said.
Wallace, who won at Bristol, Tenn., in May, and in the second Pocono race in July, was running third behind Rudd and Labonte when the spin by Earnhardt Jr. and Robby Gordon brought the caution flag out on lap 177.
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