Wallace shuts down Riverside with victory

Sunday, June 12, 1988 – Rusty Wallace will forever be the last driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race at Riverside International Raceway as he outran Terry Labonte, Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt in a four-lap shootout to capture the Budweiser 400, the final NASCAR race to be held at the 2.62-mile road course. The track, which hosted its first NASCAR premier series race in 1958, was closed and a shopping mall was eventually built on the site.

It was the fifth career win for Wallace, driver of the Raymond Beadle-owned Blue Max Racing Pontiac, and the first of six he would score in ’88. It was also his third road course win and second in a row at Riverside.

A NASCAR error nearly cost Wallace the victory – when the caution flag appeared for a spin by Ken Schrader with eight laps remaining, the pace car mistakenly picked up the leaders before they had a chance to race back to the start/finish line (allowed at that time). Wallace and Rudd slowed; Earnhardt and Phil Parsons shot by both drivers and the pace car and rushed back to the line. Officials realized the error and corrected it by placing Earnhardt and Parsons behind Wallace and Rudd before the final restart with four laps remaining.

There was a 25-minute red flag period after driver Ruben Garcia crashed through a guard rail, chain fence and cement wall, finally coming to rest just short of a seating area for spectators. Neither Garcia nor any fans were injured in the incident.

NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick qualified 13th and finished 15th. Hendrick pitted during the race’s second caution and turned the driving duties over to road-course specialist Elliot Forbes-Robinson. It was Hendrick’s second, and final, Cup start.

Officials announced a crowd of more than 75,000 for the final race at the southern California road course.

While Wallace holds the mark as the final NASCAR race winner, Rudd holds the qualifying record, having set the mark of 118.484 mph during qualifying for the final race.

Morgan Shepherd filled in for Harry Gant in the Mach 1 Racing Chevrolet owned by movie director and stuntman Hal Needham. Gant was recovering from a broken leg sustained in a crash during the Coca-Cola 600.

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