Fast Car, Short Day Stewart leads most laps but loses engine in California FONTANA, Calif., (April 27, 2003) - Tony Stewart was enjoying a dominating drive in the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway, assuredly leading 42 other NASCAR Winston...
Fast Car, Short Day
Stewart leads most laps but loses engine in California
FONTANA, Calif., (April 27, 2003) - Tony Stewart was enjoying a dominating drive in the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway, assuredly leading 42 other NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers in an impressive display of horsepower and handling. But on lap 128 of the 250-lap race, the engine that had been providing Stewart with so much speed suddenly went silent.
As Stewart drove down the backstretch and into turn three, a connecting rod within the engine broke, leaving a plume of smoke behind the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet. After leading three times for 100 laps - Stewart's best showing in five career starts at California - the day was over, 256 miles short of the scheduled 500-mile distance.
"We sure had a heck of a car today," said Stewart, who started third before taking the lead on lap 13. "This Home Depot Monte Carlo was awesome. Greg Zipadelli (crew chief) and all the guys did a really good job yesterday of taking the short amount of practice time that we got and giving me a really good race car today.
"The engine just broke a rod as I went into three. I just tried to get it slowed down so I could get off the race track and not oil it down for everybody else."
Stewart's early exit resulted in a season-worst 41st place finish, and despite earning 10 bonus points for leading the most laps in the Auto Club 500, he dropped out of the top-10 in points for the first time this year. Stewart now stands 11th in points, 331 markers arrears series leader Matt Kenseth.
When the race ended, it was Kurt Busch who wound up victorious, becoming the first repeat winner of the season. He held off a strong charge from Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte, and in the process moved up one spot in the championship point standings to fourth. He now trails Kenseth - his Roush Racing teammate - by 168 points.
Rusty Wallace finished third, while Bill Elliott and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-five.
The next event on the Winston Cup schedule is the May 3 Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Live coverage by FX begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT.