JOLIET, Ill. - Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Monte Carlo SS, captured his first win of the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) in the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. It was the former two-time NASCAR Cup champion's 30th Cup career ...
JOLIET, Ill. - Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Monte Carlo SS, captured his first win of the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) in the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. It was the former two-time NASCAR Cup champion's 30th Cup career victory and second win at the 1.5-mile venue.
"All these Home Depot guys won the race," said Stewart. "They got us the track position we needed, especially with late cautions like that. Being out front, being in clean air was everything. So every one of those guys with the Monte Carlo SS were the ones who got us in victory lane today, for sure."
Five Team Chevy drivers followed Stewart to the checkered flag, giving Team Chevy six cars in the top-10 finishing order.
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Monte Carlo finished fourth, Casey Mears, No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Monte Carlo SS finished fifth, Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Monte Carlo SS finished seventh, Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont/Nicorette Monte Carlo SS finished ninth and Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Monte Carlo SS finished 10th.
With his ninth-place finish, Gordon continued to hold his points lead with a 303-point advantage over second-place Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Express Monte Carlo SS, who finished 17th. Gordon and nine other Team Chevy drivers sit among the top-12 in the driver points standings.
Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, was sidelined in an accident due to a cut right rear tire and fell to seventh in the standings.
Chevrolet maintains the lead in the Nextel Cup manufacturer points standings with 15 wins in 19 of 36 races completed.
Following a weekend off, the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season resumes on July 29th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS - Race winner
HOW WAS YOUR CAR TODAY? "It was good. It was really good all day. The thing about here is you've got to have it so free on the front of a run to be good in the center and the end and we luckily, even with all those restarts, we never got a chance to get enough laps on the tires to really let us get tight enough. We were still just a little bit free there at the end... It was good enough in clean air even though it was free to stay out front. We just kept wanting a long run. We didn't want to see those cautions there at the end. Matt (Kenseth) was really good on restarts, I mean really, really good on restarts. I couldn't make a mistake. If I made one mistake I was going to have a hard time explaining to these guys how I lost the race.
"What won us the race is (crew chief Greg) Zippy (Zipadelli) and these guys - the pit crew - did an awesome job today. They kept us the track position at the end and that's what we needed. Track position was so important to let us run our pace and run the line that we wanted to run without having to worry about getting in dirty air. Thanks to these guys around me, that's what got us in Victory Lane again."
ON THE FENCE CLIMB: "Matt Yokum was telling me I looked like I was struggling a little bit but I told him to get his fat butt up there and see what he can do. That's not as easy as it looks. It's leaning out over the track."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS - SIDELINED WITH A CUT TIRE
ARE YOU OKAY? "Yeah, I'm okay. That certainly knocked the wind out of me and I hit my elbow on the seat. But I'm just disappointed. We had such a great race car and I was trying to have something there for the No. 20 (Tony Stewart). It's amazing when that tire blew how violent it was. I thought the drive shaft came out of the car it was so violent, but it was just the right rear tire."
WHAT HAPPENED? "We just blew the right rear (tire). I got a little bit looser on that run and evidently there is something up with that tire. Just going down the back straightaway that sucker exploded. I thought the drive shaft came out of it, it was so violent."
IT REALLY KNOCKED YOU HARD "Yeah, it knocked the wind out of me for a second. I hit my elbow on the seat. But to be honest with you, when it first turned around, I knew how fast I was going and I expected the impact to be a lot worse. It says a lot for the car and a lot for the soft walls and to get a bump on my elbow is all, that's pretty good."
ON RACING WITH TONY STEWART "Man, we were so even at the end. The run before, we were kind of even with one another. That run there we were just mirroring each other on times so I think it would have come down to traffic or if we would have had another pit stop and who got in the front then would have probably won the race. But we were definitely going to try hard. We had a good shot at it."
ON CHICAGOLAND "It's always been a great track. I've always had great finishes. I can't say enough for how hard the team has worked in giving me a great race car and how steady and consistent the car was all day. We're doing our part. We can't control flat tires. This is like the fourth flat tire we've had this year. It's taking us out of the points.
"Some years it goes in your direction and some years it doesn't as far as just good luck with tires and things like that.
"You don't want dnf's. We've got some tough tracks coming up before we get into the Chase and my mind is on that 12th spot. And to lose as many points as we did today doesn't help that cause. But even though there are some tough tracks coming up, we have some great race cars and they are good tracks for me."
DID YOU HAVE ANY WARNING ON THE TIRE? "No, it just instantly exploded."
I'M SURE CHAD KNAUS PROBABLY FELL OFF THE COUCH WATCHING THIS FROM HOME "He's probably kicked the TV off the stand by now, knowing him (laughs)."
JEFF GREEN- NO. 66 COMCAST / BEST BUY MONTE CARLO SS
"The car was pretty good, but we got tight early on. Harold (Holly, crew chief) loosened me up on that first stop, but it was just a little too loose. We were waiting on the tire pressures to come up so the setup would come to me, but I slid up and got into Michael (Waltrip) and spun out. The positive is, this chassis is better than what we've had at other mile-and-a-half tracks this year, so hopefully we can get it dialed in at some of these other races."
MARK MARTIN, NO. 01 U.S. ARMY CHEVROLET, FINISHED 14TH
"This was just an awesome comeback by the U.S. Army Team," said Martin. "I let them down yesterday and we really had to fight back for this finish. I'm so proud to drive this car for (crew chief) Ryan Pemberton and this No. 01 Ginn Racing team.
"We had one of the best cars that I've ever had on Friday and I lost it yesterday in practice," added Martin. "But these guys really dug down and came back with all they had. To lose a car like that and be able to pull the backup out and be competitive really says a great deal about this team."
WARD BURTON, NO. 4 STATE WATER HEATERS MONTE CARLO SS - Accident on lap 201
"The No. 22 (Dave Blaney) either had a tire come off or the wheel come off, I'm not sure what. I just drove in the corner on the high side pretty deep. That's really the only place on track I could have gone, but I couldn't get out of the way quick enough. Wrong place, wrong time. "We'd really made a lot of progress. Right then we were about three-tenths off the leader instead of closer to a second like we were earlier. That was the best we have been. It's a shame for everybody."
MARTIN TRUEX, JR., NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS MONTE CARLO SS - Engine
"Something broke in the motor. I'm not sure what.
"The car was real good. We lost some track position earlier. We were running second there for a while. A bunch of guys got two new tires and we got hung back in traffic but we were getting our car better and we were getting spots one by one and we were up to eighth right there. We were getting the car better; it was looking good for us. It's frustrating."
J.J. YELEY, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES MONTE CARLO SS Hit the wall
"We just kind of lost balance halfway through the race. We had a really good car at the start and just kept working back and forth on trying to keep the car turning and keeping the balance good on it. We did a couple things and lost the balance and got really tight center and a little bit free on entry. It was just rolling off into. we went on the bottom and I'd been getting beat up - too slow down there. So I moved up, ran the top one lap and all was fine.
"Ran in there again and got free, got the wall lightly, thought everything was okay. Made two more laps and then cut down the right front tire and augured it in the fence really hard. A tough way to end the day. Definitely damaged the front clip - it killed it when I hit. I hate it for the guys. We haven't had a self-inflicted DNF by the driver yet but chalk one up to me today."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS:
WHAT KIND OF WORKOUT DID YOU GET THERE AT THE END OF THE RACE? "Well, about all I wanted. We had a really good car and the Bud team had a real good pit stop there that put us in third place there near the end of the race. We had a power steering pump lock up and I can't drive and keep up like that. We did the best we could. But Tony Jr. said to just make the best you can out of it and we did.
"I'm real proud of my Bud team. All day long the car was good. We were a top 10, top five car at times most of the day, so that was good."
WHAT WILL YOU DO DURING THE TIME OFF NEXT WEEK? "I'm going to sit on the porch and drink cold beer; and make it as cold as I can make it."
AT THE SAME TIME YOU WERE HAVING YOUR POWER STEERING PROBLEM, MARTIN TRUEX JR. WAS PULLING DOWN PIT ROAD. IT WAS ODD. YOU GUYS HAD TWO REALLY STRONG CARS TODAY AND PROBLEMS AT THE SAME TIME. "Yeah, he had a good run. He lost a lot of track position. His car was good and his car was good. I'm real proud of my team. We run good every week. We just have bad luck.
BOTH YOU AND MARTIN TRUEX HAVE BEEN RUNNING GOOD THIS PAST MONTH AFTER YOU ANNOUNCED YOU WILL LEAVE DEI IN '08 "Yeah, competition-wise, the race teams are doing great. My team is great. I ain't got no complaints."
YOU'RE STILL IN THE TOP 12 IN POINTS, WHAT'S YOUR MINDSET GOING INTO THESE LAST SEVEN RACES? "I don't want to think about it for a week (laughs). I want to go home and chill out and charge my batteries a little bit and come back and go after it, you know. We've got good cars. We'll be fine. We had that problem."
WITHOUT THAT PROBLEM, COULD YOU HAVE WON? "No. A top three would have been our best effort. We were a fifth, or sixth place car."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT / NICORETTE MONTE CARLO SS:
HOW WAS YOUR DAY? "Frustrating. I thought we were going to be a lot better than that, I'll admit. When we dropped the green I was hoping we were going to be kind of like we were last year and march our way to the front. But we never did. And we just really struggled getting the balance on the car and getting the grip that we needed and we were pretty much a ninth or 10th place car other than that time we got track position. If we could have played that pit strategy perfect, we probably could have had a top five just based on track position, but we needed to work on the car a little bit and that got us a little bit behind.
"I was happy there at the end because we gained spots, you know, and we were going forward. We made a good call there the last stop by putting four tires on. But our car got tight there at the end and we had been loose all day. So yeah, I'm frustrated."
WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE OUT OF TONY STEWART NOW THAT HE'S GOTTEN HIS FIRST WIN OF THE SEASON? "He's been strong all year. They just haven't gotten the wins. And now he's got the wins. I never doubted him a bit. I feel like no matter what, that guy is a threat for the championship whether they've won races or not. And those last 10 (races) you know that team is going to step it up and by getting them a win, that's just going to give them some momentum. Right now, we're leading the points but we've got to be better, for sure."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 07 JACK DANIELS MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 10th "Another top-10 finish. We just have got to keep doing that. We've just got to keep doing it for the next seven races now. It was a good points day for us, unfortunately some of those cars we were around had some trouble. Nonetheless we were able to capitalize on it.
"The car was pretty good. I obviously made a mistake coming on pit road and got a speeding penalty. It put us behind the eight-ball. We fought the rest of the day trying to get that back. Once we got up there we were forced into putting two tires on and doing some different things that we wouldn't have had to have done otherwise."
DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX EXPRESS MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 17th
ON YOUR RACE: "We had a tough day. We decided we were going to experiment with our setups at this point of the season. Spend the next five to six weeks just kind of messing around, I guess you could say. It was a mediocre day for us. I think we ended up 15th or 16th, something like that. We were a 10th- to 15th-place car all day. Just could not get a handle on this car. It's never been run before and the setup was kind of out of the box. So we'll get back to basics there at Indy and try to win that one."
HOW DO YOU SEE THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON FOR YOU AND WHAT WILL YOU TRY TO DO? "We're spending the second half just experimenting. We're going to go to Kentucky tomorrow and play with some things. We feel like our program as a whole is good enough to win the championship the way it was with some fine-tuning. We're trying to get that fine-tuning now. In order to do that, you have to invest time and spend some of these races doing things you wouldn't normally do. Yeah, it's not going to show up with great results on race day but it will show up at the end of the year."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO SEE YOUR TEAMMATE WIN AFTER WHAT YOU TWO HAVE BEEN THROUGH OVER THE PAST WEEK? "I'm really happy for them. I know they were kind of stressed-out like we were to finally get a win, in the dominating fashion he did, was really good for that team. It seems like they always bounce back. Whenever there's adversity they always seem to pull together and come back and get a win. It's good for them. We got ours a couple weeks ago and they get theirs this week."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL MONTE CARLO SS - Finished fourth
ON YOUR RACE: "This whole Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet team dud a great job today. You'd have thought I was running 30th as bad as I was complaining about the car. The first half of the race the car was really loose. We tightened the thing up and all of a sudden it was just really tight. We had to start unwinding things out of the car there at the end to loosen it back up. A good, solid run for us. That's what we needed. We just need a little bit of momentum. The performance is there. We just need things to go our way."
CASEY MEARS, NO. 25 NATIONAL GUARD/GMAC MONTE CARLO SS - Finished fifth
ON YOUR RACE: "I feel real good. Just real proud of the National Guard/GMAC Chevrolet guys. We wanted more than that. We wanted to try to win today but we had a great start to the weekend with sitting on the pole. A good solid day. We started off the day really, really loose. The guys worked on the car all day long and got it to where it was working pretty good there at the end. It actually ended up a little too tight right there at the end. But I'm real proud of all the guys for this weekend. It was a good weekend all the way around."
IS THE PROGRESS YOU MADE TODAY ON THE CAR THE SIGN OF A GOOD RACE TEAM? "Well, the first thing you've got to do in these races is stick around all day long and obviously we were consistent and patient and the guys made the right calls there at the end. I think that we just keep growing as a team and it's just going to get better from here. We just keep learning together."
-credit: gm racing