SECOND AT ATLANTA BRINGS STEWART TO SIXTH IN POINTS Home Depot Driver Scores 11th Top-10 in Past 12 Atlanta Races Tony Stewart led five times for 121 laps in Sunday's Atlanta 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and while...
SECOND AT ATLANTA BRINGS STEWART TO SIXTH IN POINTS
Home Depot Driver Scores 11th Top-10 in Past 12 Atlanta Races
Tony Stewart led five times for 121 laps in Sunday's Atlanta 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and while that kind of performance would merit a trip to victory lane on most occasions, the 325-lapper on the 1.54-mile oval was not one of those times. Stewart finished second to race winner Jimmie Johnson, who managed to lead nine times for 135 laps.
Despite Johnson's edge in laps led, his win didn't come easy. It took a side-by-side battle with Stewart that ended on lap 322 when Johnson pinched Stewart's No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet into the turn two wall. While the damage to Stewart's car was minimal, the speed lost from scrubbing the wall allowed Johnson to motor on to a 1.311-second advantage when the checkered flag dropped.
"He (Johnson) was faster than us right there. I just wish he would've given us enough room to race him for it," said Stewart, whose runner-up result was his 11th top-10 finish in his last 12 Nextel Cup races at Atlanta. "That's racing, and that's why everybody loves coming to Atlanta. I wish we could have won it obviously, but we had a run like we needed today. We gained a lot of points and gave this Home Depot team a boost.
"My Home Depot guys did an awesome job. We fought back after a bad pit stop to take the lead later in the race," said Stewart, referring to a long pit stop on lap 144 when a lugnut fell off the left rear tire. "We just didn't have enough there at the end. We were both racing hard with three laps to go. It is what it is. He's in victory lane and I'm here talking about finishing second."
While disappointed with the near miss, Stewart could take solace in his standing amid the championship point race. The two-time Nextel Cup champion picked up seven positions to climb to sixth in points, where he's now 122 markers arrears series leader Mark Martin. Stewart's rise in points can be credited to his three straight top-10 results since finishing 43rd in the season-opening Daytona 500.
Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammates -- Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley -- finished 19th and 22nd, respectively, in the Atlanta 500. Hamlin held steady at eighth in points while Yeley dropped three spots to 12th.
Johnson's win in the Atlanta 500 was the 25th of his Nextel Cup career and his second of 2007. Finishing behind Stewart in third was Matt Kenseth, while Jeff Burton and rookie Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., Reed Sorenson and Martin comprised the remainder of the top-10.