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Wallace milestone, Busch brothers highlight Food City 500 in 2000s

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 3, 2020 at 4:30 PM

Rusty Wallace welcomed a new century of racing at Bristol Motor Speedway with a milestone victory in the 2000 Food City 500.

The race came on the heels of Dale Earnhardt’s controversial win over Terry Labonte in the 1999 Night Race. After spinning out Labonte on the final lap to win the event, Earnhardt had the famous lines in victory lane, “I didn’t mean to wreck him. I just meant to rattle his cage.”

Wallace didn’t have to rattle any cages to win the first Food City 500 of the 2000s, but he did have to survive some late-race contact with the lapped car of Jimmy Spencer for a milestone 50th career victory.

Driving the No. 2 Ford, Wallace gained a record sixth win in the Bristol spring race. Johnny Benson Jr. posted his best-ever Bristol finish with a runner-up spot in the No. 10 Pontiac, and Ward Burton in another Pontiac rounded out the top three.

2001 — In the first race at Bristol since the fatal crash of Dale Earnhardt at the 2001 Daytona 500, the iconic No. 3 was painted at the entrance of each corner.

In the end, another piece of the sport’s history was celebrated when Elliott Sadler, driving the No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers, held off John Andretti in the No. 43 Richard Petty-owned Dodge for the victory.

To date, it is the famed Wood Brothers team’s only victory at Bristol. After the race, Tony Stewart was fined $10,000 for ramming his car into Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 on pit road.

2002 — Kurt Busch in the No. 97 Ford bumped his way past Jimmy Spencer’s No. 41 Dodge and went on to lead the final 56 laps of the race.

It reignited a feud between the two that had started the previous season at Phoenix and later included Spencer wrecking Busch at Indianapolis and punching him after a race at Michigan.

Spencer and Busch didn’t have the only feud at the 2002 Food City 500 as Robby Gordon spun Dale Earnhardt Jr. on pit road. Earnhardt finished fourth after leading a race-high 181 laps.

2003 — Kurt Busch won his second straight Food City 500, edging his Roush Racing teammate Matt Kenseth for the victory. Bobby Labonte, who was the leader with 100 laps to go, finished third in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Chevrolet.

Ryan Newman became the first NASCAR driver to run a sub 15-second lap in qualifying with a record speed of 128.709 miles per hour. However, he failed to lead a lap. Outside pole sitter Jeff Gordon jumped out front and led a race-high 174 laps.

2004 — Kurt Busch made it a three-peat in Bristol spring races, denying Wallace at the end. Busch led the final 119 laps in the No. 97 Roush Racing Ford after 12 lead changes among nine other drivers.

Earnhardt Jr. was fined and docked 25 points after intentionally spinning out to trigger a caution with 70 laps to go.

2005 — Kevin Harvick scored the weekend sweep, winning both Cup and Xfinity Series races. It was in reverse order with the Xfinity Series race delayed until Monday due to rain.

Harvick rolled in the late stages of the race, winning by nearly five seconds over pole sitter Sadler. His win in the No. 29 Chevrolet was the first for Richard Childress Racing at Bristol since Dale Earnhardt’s victory in the 1999 August Night Race.

2006 — A new car and a new team, but the same result for Kurt Busch, who replaced the retired Rusty Wallace in the No. 2 Team Penske Dodge.

With the race delayed because of snow, Busch celebrated holding off Harvick for the win by lying down at the start-finish line and doing a snow angel celebration. They weren’t as happy on pit road where Jeff Gordon confronted third-place Matt Kenseth after the race, giving him a shove for spinning out the No. 24 driver.

2007 — The much ballyhooed “Car of Tomorrow” made its NASCAR debut with winner Kyle Busch commenting how much he disliked the car in victory lane.

The action on the track wasn’t bad at all with Busch in the No. 5 Chevrolet holding off Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon to win the race, which extended into overtime after a spin by David Ragan. This was the last race on the “old Bristol” as the track was repaved in the summer before the 2007 August Night Race.

2008 — Jeff Burton was the recipient of some good fortune when leaders Tony Stewart spun out and Denny Hamlin’s car didn’t come up to speed with fuel pickup problems.

It was the only Bristol win for Burton, driving the No. 31 Chevrolet, and a 1-2-3 finish for Richard Childress Racing with Harvick second and Clint Bowyer third. Stewart led 514 laps in the 2007-08 Food City 500 races, but posted finishes of 35th and 14th in the respective events.

2009 — It was the fifth Food City 500 win of the decade for the Busch family as younger brother Kyle won his second Bristol spring race. Busch, driving the No. 18 Toyota, held off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin in a green-white-checkered finish.

Busch clearly had the best car, leading 378 laps overall. Jimmie Johnson finished third in the No. 48 Chevrolet on his way to the season championship.

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