HAMPTON, Ga. -- Rusty Wallace's victory in Sunday's Hooters 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race ended one of the most dominating seasons in recent history, but it wasn't enough for him to win the Winston Cup title.
Wallace claimed his 10th victory in Sunday's 500-mile race, the most wins since Dale Earnhardt won 11 in 1987. But it was Earnhardt, who finished 10th on Sunday and was a six-time winner this season, who got to celebrate his sixth NASCAR Winston Cup title, worth $1.25 million.
'Yes, it's frustrating,' Wallace admitted as he watched Earnhardt's team celebrate the championship. 'I would have never thought I would win 10 races and not win the championship.
'Hopefully, we will be back up near the top and finish high again next year.'
Wallace had the dominant car in Sunday's race, leading nine times for 189 laps. He finished 2.62-seconds ahead of the second place car of Ricky Rudd. Darrell Waltrip was third, followed by Bill Elliott and Dick Trickle.
Wallace averaged 125.221 miles an hour in his Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac and won $93,100.
'I've had a wonderful year,' Wallace said. 'I have to congratulate Dale, he deserved the championship. He had six wins and we threw everything at him. We won 10 races, led a ton of laps and it was a great victory.'
Earnhardt finished the season with an 80-point margin over Wallace in the Winston Cup point standings and is is now just one title away from Richard Petty's all-time record of seven Winston Cup championships.
Wallace started 20th, but showed the strength of his Pontiac, driving to fourth place by the 44th lap. He passed Harry Gant for the lead on the 79th lap for the first of his nine leads.
The race was slowed 11 times for cautions, but Wallace was able to avoid any trouble. He took the lead from Dale Jarrett on the 262nd lap and stayed there until he had to make his final pit stop for fuel on the 309th lap.
Waltrip had to gamble by going the distance without pitting for fuel, but it didn't pay off because Wallace regained the lead on the 325th lap, just four laps from the finish.
From there, he was able to drive to his 31st career victory.
'We had such a big lead all day long and we made that pit stop, I looked at the scoreboard and saw 17 (Waltrip) up there and said, 'Where in the heck did he come from?',' Wallace said. 'I had to run hard to catch him. I didn't know if he could last or not.
'When I passed him I thought if I messed up, he could get me. When I saw him run out of gas on that last lap, that is when I knew I had it won.'
Despite not winning the Winston Cup title, Wallace said it won't dampen the way he views this season.
'I'll savor this year for a long time,' Wallace said. 'A lot of dramatic things happened this year - two drivers losing their lives and me having two of the most violent crashes I can remember.
'It was a really, really wild year...one that I will remember for a long time.'
Earnhardt had to finish 34th or better to clinch the title and after T.W. Taylor crashed on the 140th lap and informed NASCAR he would not return on the 155th lap, he was the eighth car out of the race and that allowed Earnhardt to clinch the title.
Wallace and Earnhardt honored the late Alan Kulwicki, who clinched the 1992 Winston Cup title at Atlanta Motor Speedway, by driving around the track backwards in the ceremonial Polish Victory Lap. Both drivers also carried flags with the numbers of Kulwicki and the late Davey Allison to the crowd estimated at 100,000 fans.