Bristol: Tony Stewart race report

Snowball Effect at Bristol Slow Pit Stops and NASCAR Penalty Drop Stewart from First to 24th in Food City 500 BRISTOL, Tenn., (March 28, 2004) - Tony Stewart looked to rekindle some of his past success at Bristol Motor Speedway by driving his...

Snowball Effect at Bristol
Slow Pit Stops and NASCAR Penalty Drop Stewart from First to 24th in Food City 500

BRISTOL, Tenn., (March 28, 2004) - Tony Stewart looked to rekindle some of his past success at Bristol Motor Speedway by driving his #20 Home Depot Chevrolet from 12th to first by lap 82 of the Food City 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race. But two slow pit stops and an on-track run-in while under caution with rookie Scott Wimmer prevented the former Bristol race winner from adding to his victory tally. Instead, the 2002 series champion finished 24th.

It was yet another tough Bristol outing for The Home Depot Racing Team, with their average finish now being 23rd in their past six races at the .533-mile bullring. It's a world of difference from the team's first five races at Bristol, where they won a race and a pole and led a total of 484 laps to put them at the head of the field nearly 20 percent of the time.

Stewart's 12th place start in the Food City 500 didn't last long, as he was 10th by lap 10 and fifth by lap 55. A quick pit stop while under caution on lap 58 gained Stewart two spots to put him in third when the race restarted on lap 65. He passed Greg Biffle for second on lap 75 and then made his way past Rusty Wallace for the lead on lap 82 with a bump-and-run move in turn three. Stewart paced the field for the next 25 circuits before the caution flag waved on lap 102, sending the field to pit road for scheduled service. It was there where Stewart's strong run began to falter.

The pit stop was slow and it dropped Stewart to sixth when the race restarted on lap 110. Stewart held steady in sixth before another caution came out on lap 169, where more pit stops took place. Again Stewart's service was slow, and the result was a loss of 10 positions.

Still on the lead lap and still upbeat, Stewart set about regaining his front-running status. But the beating and banging that personifies Bristol found Stewart as he was mired in the middle of the pack. While racing hard with Wimmer, the two made contact while trying to avoid a spinning Ricky Craven in turn two. Stewart and Wimmer continued to bang sheet metal on the resulting caution lap, much to the dismay of NASCAR officials.

On their ensuing pit stops, NASCAR held both drivers in their pit stalls for one lap. Adding insult to injury was the damage to Stewart's car, which consisted of crumpled fenders and a reconfigured front end alignment. Already a lap down, Stewart now had to drive an ill-handling race car. The combination eventually put Stewart two laps down, preventing him from ever contending for "lucky dog" status, where the first driver one lap down receives his lap back on each and every caution.

Instead, Stewart was one of just a handful of drivers two laps down. Call it a pyrrhic victory, but Stewart's 24th place finish was the best result possible, as there were 21 cars on the lead lap and two cars one lap down. Stewart beat out Kyle Petty for the best finish of a driver two laps down. The result dropped Stewart one position in the championship point race, as he is now fourth in points, 94 markers behind series leader Matt Kenseth.

Winning the Food City 500 was Kurt Busch, who scored his ninth career victory and his fourth Bristol victory in the last five races, including three straight. Finishing second was nine-time Bristol winner Wallace, while Kevin Harvick, Sterling Marlin and Kenseth rounded-out the top-five.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the April 4 Samsung/RadioShack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Live coverage by FOX begins at 1 p.m. EDT.

-jgr/hd-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Kyle Petty , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Ricky Craven , Scott Wimmer