Home Depot Racing, Texas race report

Texas Proves Troublesome for Stewart & Company FORT WORTH, Texas (April 1, 2001) - It's been said that everything is bigger in Texas - including the problems associated with making a race car handle around Texas Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile oval.

Texas Proves Troublesome for Stewart & Company

FORT WORTH, Texas (April 1, 2001) - It's been said that everything is bigger in Texas - including the problems associated with making a race car handle around Texas Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile oval. Just ask Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac, or his crew chief - Greg Zipadelli.

Better yet, don't ask them. They probably have Texas-sized headaches following their 23rd place finish in the Harrah's 500.

>From the time The Home Depot Racing Team unloaded, they struggled to find a way around the Texas oval. It wasn't for a lack of effort, though, as shocks and springs were exchanged more often than stocks on Wall Street.

After qualifying on Friday, all the tuning and tweaking amounted to just the 37th quickest time overall. That left Stewart in provisional territory, as he was slotted 41st after being allotted the fifth of seven available provisionals.

Saturday's hour-and-half-long practice session proved only moderately better, as the team continued to struggle with their car's reaction to the new right side tires that Goodyear had debuted for the Texas race weekend.

Those struggles continued into Sunday's race, and they were exacerbated by two unscheduled pit stops.

A pit stop had to be made on lap six after Stewart couldn't avoid debris left by a five-car accident on the fronstretch. As a precaution, the team changed all four tires, knowing full well that just the tiniest shard of metal could cause a flat tire. Another trip to pit road had to be made on lap 36, when the #20's nose and hood were dented following contact with Robert Pressley's Ford as Stewart tried to avoid a three-car accident on the backstretch. The damage was minor, and all that was needed for Stewart to continue was some well-placed duct tape.

After those travails were over, it was back to fighting with an ill-handling race car. Slow progress was made over the course of 334-lap race, as the team did pick up 18 positions en route to their 23rd place finish.

"We couldn't find any grip all weekend," said a subdued Stewart. "Every time someone got up alongside of me, whether they were on the inside or on the outside, my car just felt unpredictable - especially on restarts. It was beyond frustrating."

Alleviating some of that frustration was the team's standing in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship point standings. Despite the race's outcome, Stewart actually moved up one spot to 17th. He now stands 330 points behind series leader Dale Jarrett.

Jarrett slightly padded his point lead by becoming the first repeat winner of the 2001 season. He passed Johnny Benson for the top spot on lap 329 and held on to take his 26th checkered flag by .703 seconds over second-place Steve Park. He now holds a 75-point advantage over Jeff Gordon, who finished a not too distant fifth. Benson wound up third after Park passed him for second on lap 331, and rookie Kurt Busch posted his best career finish with a solid fourth-place effort.

The next race on the Winston Cup schedule is the Virginia 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on April 8 at 1 p.m. EDT. FOX will provide live coverage of the event.

-HomeDepot

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Robert Pressley , Johnny Benson , Steve Park.