Stewart Wins at Charlotte Home Depot Driver Takes 17th Career Win and Second of the Season CONCORD, N.C., (Oct. 11, 2003) - Tony Stewart turned in a dominating performance in Saturday night's UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, ...
Stewart Wins at Charlotte
Home Depot Driver Takes 17th Career Win and Second of the Season
CONCORD, N.C., (Oct. 11, 2003) - Tony Stewart turned in a dominating performance in Saturday night's UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, leading six times for 149 laps - the most of any driver - to win his 17th career NASCAR Winston Cup Series race and his second of the season. He put an emphatic end to the recent slate of races where the outcome was determined by pit strategy and fuel mileage rather than flat-out speed.
"It's about time the fastest car won the race instead of all this fuel mileage and tire stuff," said Stewart from victory lane.
Following his final pit stop of the evening on lap 298, Stewart found himself in second place to race leader Ryan Newman, who made his last pit stop much earlier on lap 267, 67 laps from the end of the race. Newman - a winner of eight races in 2003 thanks in large part to savvy pit strategy and superior fuel mileage - was now able to go the rest of the distance on fuel.
Newman was a lap down in 20th when he returned to the race track, but with every other driver in front of him still needing to come to pit road for one final pit stop, he methodically crept up the leader board, taking the point when Stewart made his stop.
The final round of service performed by the Joe Gibbs Racing crew on Stewart's #20 Home Depot Chevrolet was quick and flawless, allowing the reigning Winston Cup champion to return to the race track in second. But first-place Newman was ahead by eight seconds, a daunting challenge with only 36 laps remaining.
Stewart showed to everyone that he was up to that challenge, whacking away at Newman's lead until he was on Newman's back bumper, finally taking the lead for good with a pass off turn four on lap 327. From there, Stewart checked out, crossing the finish line with a .608-second margin of victory.
"I knew with fresher tires we'd be faster," said Stewart. "But I didn't know that Ryan had pitted early until we got out and saw on the board that we were second. The '12' car pitted real short and got a big jump on us and they about won the race by doing that.
"Getting by Ryan wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. He ran right in the line where I wanted to be, which was the fast way around all night. I'll give him credit because we had to run hard to get to him. They've been doing a really good job this year and you can't take anything away from them. They're the ones winning races. We had an awesome car tonight and it felt good to win here, especially by beating a team that's been on their game all year."
The strong run - Stewart's fourth straight top-five finish - moved him up to seventh in the championship point standings, 216 points arrears sixth-place Jeff Gordon and 271 points back from fifth-place Jimmie Johnson. It also enabled Chevrolet to clinch its 27th manufacturer's championship.
"I'm really excited about that," said Stewart. "We may not win the driver's championship, but it's nice to know we were able to help them accomplish the manufacturer's championship. It makes me feel good leaving here tonight knowing that we helped win another championship."
Following Stewart and Newman to the line in third was Johnson, while Bill Elliott and Gordon rounded out the top-five.
Only five races remain, with the next event on the Winston Cup schedule being the Oct. 19 Subway 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Live coverage by NBC begins at 12:30 p.m. EDT.