A Not So Bad Night at Charlotte Stewart Crashes but Stays Atop Point Standings CONCORD, N.C., (Oct. 15, 2005) - Tony Stewart had a dominant car in Saturday night's UAW-GM Quality 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Charlotte, leading five...
A Not So Bad Night at Charlotte
Stewart Crashes but Stays Atop Point Standings
CONCORD, N.C., (Oct. 15, 2005) - Tony Stewart had a dominant car in Saturday night's UAW-GM Quality 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Charlotte, leading five times for 61 laps and seemingly on his way toward significantly increasing his already sizeable lead in the championship point standings.
But a cut right rear tire while leading on lap 216 of the 336-lap race sent Stewart's #20 Home Depot Chevrolet backward into the turn three wall, ending Stewart's shot at victory and erasing what had been a 75-point lead.
But the tire problem that put a crimp in Stewart's night befell almost every other Nextel Cup competitor, turning what could have been an ugly night for Stewart into a mere disappointment.
A race record 15 caution periods for 84 laps, mostly for crashes stemming from cut or blown tires, sent 15 drivers to the pits for lengthy repairs. And 42 drivers amidst the 43-car field had tire problems of some sort.
How bad was it?
Stewart finished 25th, eight laps down to race winner Jimmie Johnson and the first driver not on the lead lap. In fact, Stewart was on a lap all his own, as the 26th place driver - Matt Kenseth - was 10 laps down.
"We did the best with what we had," said Stewart. "We had the fastest car all night. Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, crew chief) told me that 42 out of 43 cars had tire problems, so welcome to the wonderful world of racing. It was a weird night."
The weird night can trace its origins back to April, where prior to the May Nextel Cup race at Charlotte, the 1.5-mile oval was levigated - the track's term used to describe a grinding process that was used to smooth the track's surface.
Areas that were bumpy were milled, while areas that were not went untouched. The end result was different textures at different spots on the race track. The inconsistent areas made finding a constant groove difficult at best.
A record 22 caution periods for 103 laps in the 600-mile May race was the end result, which many termed a crash-fest.
In an effort to cure the inconsistent milling, the entire race track was levigated during the summer. And while the track was incredibly smooth, it was also incredibly fast. Race cars weighing 3,400 pounds running sub-200 mph laps put massive amounts of stress on the tires. Cars crashed in testing as teams sought grip on the ultra-fast oval.
And when the UAW-GM Quality 500 race weekend began, a new wrinkle was added. With plenty of rubber having been laid on the asphalt through testing, grip was found - but at a price. The already stressed tires were pushed over its limits, with blistered tires leading to cut tires leading to crashed race cars. That was the UAW-GM Quality 500.
"I don't think it was Goodyear's fault," said Stewart in reference to the tire manufacturer. "It's a bad set of circumstances that started before the May race and everybody involved did their part to make it as good as they could. I don't know that you can point the finger at anybody. This is just what we had to deal with tonight. We'll take our lumps and go on from here."
Stewart's lumps could've been a lot worse, but because every driver had to deal with his own set of adversity while still trying to overcome Stewart's 75-point lead in the championship standings, Stewart's poor night was mitigated by the poor night of others.
Stewart is still the point leader, despite being tied with Jimmie Johnson, winner of the UAW-GM Quality 500. Stewart's five victories so far this season trump Johnson's four, giving Stewart the tiebreaker.