There are likely fond memories for fans of Rusty Wallace resting within the history of Atlanta
Motor Speedway. Wallace finished second in AMS in his first Cup start in 1980 and won twice here. One of the sweetest of those memories came in the 1989 Atlanta Journal 500.
Wallace, seen in the photo to the right, clinched the Cup title that day driving for car owner Raymond Beadle in the No. 27 Kodiak Pontiac, finishing well enough to hold off a dominant Dale Earnhardt by 12 points. Earnhardt turned the tables on Wallace in 1993, with Wallace winning the fall Atlanta race and Earnhardt claiming the championship.
Wallace entered Atlanta with a 73-point lead over Mark Martin and a 79-point edge ahead of Earnhardt. He ended up needing most of those points. Wallace endured a tough day but was able to persevere and finish 15th, three laps off the pace. That effort wound up carrying Wallace to a championship. With Wallace fallen back and Martin exiting the race with 104 laps remaining with engines problems, a window of opportunity was opened for Earnhardt. He nearly cashed in on it. Earnhardt dominated the race, leading 249 of 328 laps. But it ended up being not quite enough as Wallace's 15th place effort earned him the championship.
Rounding out the top five behind Earnhardt were Geoffrey Bodine, Ken Schrader, Sterling Marlin and Darrell Waltrip.
Wallace's championship came a year after winning the Atlanta fall race but finishing second in the points to Bill Elliott, who that day finished 11th and won the championship by 24 points.
In 1989, it turned out to be Wallace that didn't dominate the race, but ran well enough to clinch the championship. Wallace fell off the lead lap early on and actually finished three laps off the pace in 15th.
Fond memories exist for fans of Rusty Wallace with Atlanta being the site of him clinching the 1989 championship. Atlanta Motor Speedway will be home to many more exciting memories this Labor Day when NASCAR Night Racing returns to AMS.