Homestead: Tony Stewart race report

LATE RACE PIT STOP COSTS STEWART STORYBOOK ENDING Home Depot Driver Leads Late, Finishes Ninth in Final Race for JGR A storybook ending just wasn't in the cards for Tony Stewart in Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race ...

LATE RACE PIT STOP COSTS STEWART STORYBOOK ENDING
Home Depot Driver Leads Late, Finishes Ninth in Final Race for JGR

A storybook ending just wasn't in the cards for Tony Stewart in Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Leading with just 11 laps remaining in the 267-lap contest, Stewart had to pit for fuel on lap 256 and relinquish the point. Despite pacing the field for 11 laps and having one of the fastest, if not the fastest car on the 1.5-mile oval, the driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) finished a heartbreaking ninth.

"We did everything we could do," said Stewart, who in 10 career starts at Homestead has five top-10 finishes. "It was awesome to be leading there with 20 laps to go and driving away from the field. You can't ask for more than that. I just appreciate everything that Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, crew chief) and these guys have done."

Homestead marked Stewart's final race with JGR, as he'll become a driver/owner next year with Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart leaves the only race team he's ever driven for in the Sprint Cup Series with 10 poles, 33 wins and two championships amid 356 starts dating back to Feb. 14, 1999 with the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

"We all wanted to win this last race, but so did 42 other guys that wanted to win this last one of the year," Stewart said. "I'm really proud of these guys. The biggest thing to me is that we went out and we were competitive tonight. Everybody knew we were here and they knew we were one of the fastest cars all day."

In the 10 years Stewart has driven the No. 20 Home Depot machine for JGR, he and the team have logged plenty of miles and racked up plenty of memories along the way.

"It's hard," said an emotional Stewart after the race. "These guys are my family. When you've been with a group of guys for 10 years and the sponsor for 10 years like this -- that's a long time. I know people that haven't been married that long. It's just one of those rough nights. We had a shot to win and it didn't work out for us."

Stewart's JGR teammates -- Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch -- finished 13th and 19th, respectively, in the Ford 400.

All three JGR drivers were represented in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup. Hamlin ended up being the lead JGR driver in points, as he secured the eighth position in the final point standings. Stewart and Busch wound up ninth and 10th, respectively.

-credit: jgr

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Series NASCAR-CUP