Dale Earnhardt said his team "stretched the gas can" on the way to victory in Sunday's Miller Genuine Draft 400 at Richmond, Va., International Raceway.
Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin were not as fortunate, each losing leads because of late fuel stops, and Earnhardt won his second consecutive race and eighth of the season.
Earnhardt ran the final 126 laps on the three-quarter-mile oval without stopping for fuel, finishing the 400-lap, 300-mile event with the engine in his Chevrolet Lumina sputtering from fuel starvation.
He said team owner Richard Childress told him on the radio he could make it to the end.
The victory moved Earnhardt within 16 points of Martin in the battle for NASCAR's Winston Cup stock car championship.
Earnhardt moved into the race lead with only 25 laps remaining when Martin, who had led by nearly five seconds, had to pit for a splash of fuel.
Martin got back onto the track in fifth after a 2.9-second stop, but appeared to have no chance of catching Earnhardt until a spin by Ernie Irvan with just six laps remaining.
The green flag came back out on lap 398 and Earnhardt could see Martin in his rear-view mirror.
But the lapped car driven by Harry Gant apparently held up the second-place car until it was too late.
Brazilian Ayrton Senna, driving a McLaren-Honda, won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, beating French rival Alain Prost.
It was the sixth Grand Prix victory of the season for Senna.