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1989:

Wallace Secures Lone Title

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By Ben White

Driving the No. 27 Blue Max Racing Pontiac owned by drag racer Raymond Beadle, short-track sensation Rusty Wallace claimed six victories as he edged Dale Earnhardt to claim his lone Cup Series crown.

Wallace came to NASCAR’s top series determined to make a name for himself as he had done on the short tracks near his home in Missouri and with promoter Rex Robbins’ American Speed Association.

Wallace’s first venture into NASCAR’s premier series came in 1980 when he finished second to Earnhardt at Atlanta Motor Speedway while driving for auto racing icon Roger Penske. Even though unknown and untested, Wallace’s performance that day resulted in him be recognized as a possible future star. 

After earning Cup Series rookie-of-the-year honors with team owner Cliff Stewart in 1984, Wallace continued with Stewart in 1985 with little success. Then, in 1986, NASCAR team owner and drag racing legend Raymond Beadle called.

Race wins began to accumulate and in 1988, Wallace made a strong challenge for the Cup Series championship. Come 1989, Wallace and crew chief Barry Dodson were cocked and ready to win the coveted title. 

Wallace was challenged throughout the year by three-time champion Earnhardt. Both drivers amassed virtually identical numbers when it came to success on the track. They were close on wins, top-five finishes and top-10 results, so much so that only 12 points separated them when the checkered flag fell over the final race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Wallace entered the finale with a 78-point lead but problems dropped that lead to 12 at the checkered flag. Earnhardt won the race but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit.

1989: 1989 NASCAR Cup champion Rusty Wallace. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives)

1989

PRESIDENT: GEORGE H.W. BUSH

NO. 1 AT THE BOX OFFICE: BATMAN

MOVIES TO WATCH: FIELD OF DREAMS AND GHOSTBUSTERS II

NO. 1 SONG: “LOOK AWAY” BY CHICAGO

GALLON OF GAS: $1.02

POP CULTURE: ABC’S COVERAGE OF GAME 3 OF THE WORLD SERIES WAS INTERRUPTED A FEW MINUTES IN THE BROADCAST WHEN AN EARTHQUAKE STRUCK CANDLESTICK PARK IN SAN FRANCISCO.

BEST DRIVER

Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 27 Blue Max Racing Pontiac, won six races en route to securing the lone Cup Series championship of his 26-year career. Wallace was second in points in June at Pocono Raceway. He took the lead with five races remaining and held it for the remainder of the season. After his final victory of the year at Richmond Raceway in September, Wallace logged eight top-10 finishes in the final eight races.

BEST RACE

Driving the No. 28 Robert Yates Racing Ford, second-generation wheelman Davey Allison took the lead from Morgan Shepherd with nine laps remaining and beat Terry Labonte to the stripe by three-car lengths to win the May 7 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Revised carburetor specifications for this race resulted in slower speeds and tight racing. Mark Martin’s pole speed was nearly 20 mph off the track record.

TOP CARS

Rusty Wallace drove Raymond Beadle’s No. 27 Blue Max Racing Pontiac to six victories and 20 top-10 finishes in 29 races.

The familiar No 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet driven by Dale Earnhardt had five wins and 19 top-10 results.

1989 Season Recap

DATE | LOCATION | WINNER

Feb. 19 | Daytona International Speedway | Darrell Waltrip

March 5 | Rockingham Speedway | Rusty Wallace

March 19 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Darrell Waltrip

March 26 | Richmond Raceway | Rusty Wallace

April 2 | Darlington Raceway | Harry Gant

April 9 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Rusty Wallace

April 16 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

April 23 | Martinsville Speedway | Darrell Waltrip

May 7 | Talladega Superspeedway | Davey Allison

May 28 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Darrell Waltrip

June 4 | Dover Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

June 11 | Sonoma Raceway | Ricky Rudd

June 18 | Pocono Raceway | Terry Labonte

June 25 | Michigan International Speedway | Bill Elliott

July 1 | Daytona International Speedway | Davey Allison

July 23 | Pocono Raceway | Bill Elliott

July 30 | Talladega Superspeedway | Terry Labonte

Aug. 13 | Watkins Glen International | Rusty Wallace

Aug. 20 | Michigan International Speedway | Bill Elliott

Aug. 26 | Bristol Motor Speedway | Darrell Waltrip

Sept. 3 | Darlington Raceway | Dale Earnhardt

Sept. 10 | Richmond Raceway | Rusty Wallace

Sept. 17 | Dover Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

Sept. 24 | Martinsville Speedway | Darrell Waltrip

Oct. 8 | Charlotte Motor Speedway | Ken Schrader

Oct. 15 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Geoff Bodine

Oct. 22 | Rockingham Speedway | Mark Martin

Nov. 5 | Phoenix Raceway | Bill Elliott

Nov. 19 | Atlanta Motor Speedway | Dale Earnhardt

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