The rupture process and tectonic surroundings of the 2008 Wenchuan, China, earthquake are both complex in a way that might be related to the heterogeneous stress field of the Longmen Shan region. In this study, we construct dynamic models with heterogeneous initial stress to reproduce a kinematic inversion result by Wen et al. (2012) and investigate the physical mechanisms of the variable slip pattern and rupture velocity in this event. The results show that, for the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, (1) the rupture behavior and slip pattern can be explained by heterogeneities in initial stress and (2) the variations of rupture velocity and ground‐motion pattern are strongly affected by both stress drop and fault strength. Our preferred dynamic model agrees with the kinematic model that the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake initiated with a slow velocity in the southwest, sped up in the segment with the largest slip, and then slowed down for the remaining propagation to the northeast.