MONSTER MILE BITES STEWART Wreck with Kurt Busch Ends Top-10 Effort Tony Stewart was en route to another strong finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in Monday's rain-postponed Autism Speaks 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race. The...
MONSTER MILE BITES STEWART
Wreck with Kurt Busch Ends Top-10 Effort
Tony Stewart was en route to another strong finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in Monday's rain-postponed Autism Speaks 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race. The driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) had come from 30th in the 43-car field to become a top-10 mainstay just 100 laps into the 400-lap race.
But an accident with Kurt Busch on lap 271 derailed Stewart's run and relegated him to a 40th-place finish and his third DNF (Did Not Finish) of the season. It was Stewart's second straight DNF at the aptly named "Monster Mile," a track where coming into Monday's race Stewart had an average finish of ninth.
Busch attempted to pass Stewart off turn four of the mile oval, and before he was clear of the orange nose of The Home Depot machine, Busch cut in front of Stewart. Busch's right rear quarterpanel tagged Stewart's left front fender, sending Stewart hard into the SAFER Barrier on the outside retaining wall. Busch spun in front of Stewart and nosed into the wall. Both went to the garage area with significant damage.
"We got together off of (turn) four," said Stewart after the race. "It's a shame because we've just been racing him the way he's raced us for a whole year. He's raced us every lap like it pays a million dollars. He never was clear and he came off the corner and crashed both of us."
Just after the accident, Stewart came to pit road for crew chief Greg Zipadelli and the team to survey the damage. While they were doing that, and while jackman Jason Lee walked around the car to inspect the damage to the right side, Busch quickly pulled up next to Stewart's car, forcing Lee to jump back and onto the hood.
"I didn't see (Busch) until the last minute, but he about hit one of our crew guys," said Stewart.
NASCAR parked Busch for the rest of the race. As Busch's crew loaded up their No. 2 Dodge onto the team transporter, Stewart's crew went to work. They beat out the crumpled sheet metal and replaced the right front wheel assembly, sending Stewart back onto the race track on lap 334 to pick up any positions and points he could. The effort yielded one spot, as Stewart passed Ward Burton for 40th.
Stewart finished 73 laps down to first-time race winner Martin Truex Jr. Afterward, Stewart explained why his accident with Busch was so exasperating.
"It's about racing people with respect, and he hasn't done that with anybody for a year," Stewart said. "You finally get to the point where you're tired of giving guys positions. Most of the guys are pretty good about it. There's only a couple of bad apples out there and he's one of them. When you've got guys and you let 'em go every time they get to you and they don't do the same thing when the roles are reversed, you finally get tired of it. You finally learn to race those guys the way they race you. You don't see me have problems with Mark Martin and the guys that run up front every week. It's Kurt Busch and a select few that do that.
"This is a sport that's so competitive, you can't afford to give guys positions all the time if they're not going to do it back for you. I'm just going to race guys the way they race me."
While the finish was bad, it only dropped Stewart one spot in the championship point standings. The two-time Nextel Cup champion is now seventh in points, 486 markers behind series leader Jeff Gordon, but only 11 points behind fifth-place Jeff Burton.