Indianapolis: Tony Stewart race report

INDY "TIRES" STEWART OUT Home Depot Driver Scores Worst Indy Finish as Tire Issues Take Top Billing Tony Stewart's 10th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was nothing like his previous nine races at the...

INDY "TIRES" STEWART OUT
Home Depot Driver Scores Worst Indy Finish as Tire Issues Take Top Billing

Tony Stewart's 10th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was nothing like his previous nine races at the historic 2.5-mile oval.

The driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) came into this year's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard as the two-time and reigning champion of the event, as well as having only one finish outside the top-12.

But on a spectacular summer day where excessive tire wear trumped any other newsworthy notes, Stewart struggled with an ill-handling race car and limped home to a 23rd-place finish.

"Just a tough day," said Stewart, who enjoyed polar opposite days at Indianapolis when we won in 2005 and again in 2007. "There are really no other words to describe it. Just an unbelievably tough day."

Tough and unprecedented, as there were competition yellows -- NASCAR-mandated caution periods -- about every 10-12 laps of the 160-lap race to check the excessive tire wear.

Tires, specifically right-side tires, were worn down to the cords and even deflating once 10 or more laps were put on them. The result was a race-record 11 caution periods for 52 laps, six of which were "competition yellows."

Stewart and crew chief Greg Zipadelli attempted to persevere through it all, rising from their 14th-place starting spot to fifth after taking only right-side tires following a lap 82 pit stop.

The sharp called gained the No. 20 team some much needed track position, and with their left-side tire wear being minimal, other teams picked up on the two-tire strategy.

Yet even with the smart pit calls, Stewart's Home Depot Toyota was a handful. "Loose" was the word most often heard over the team's radio frequency, and Zipadelli threw a series of track bar, wedge, spring rubber and air pressure adjustments at the car in an attempt to get it to handle as well as it could on the tires provided by Goodyear.

While the car never became perfect, that was the case for all the competitors in Sunday's race. Still, Zipadelli's constant chassis tinkering, along with another two-tire pit stop on lap 139, allowed Stewart to drive his Home Depot machine to as high as fourth when the race restarted on lap 141.

But that would also be the highlight of the No. 20 team's day.

With other teams on a four-tire strategy, Stewart quickly drifted backward, falling to 10th by lap 144 and 16th when the final caution flag of day waved on lap 150.

His loose race car necessitated a four-tire change on the ensuing pit stop, which dropped Stewart to 27th when the race resumed on lap 154. Only four spots could be reclaimed before the checkered flag mercifully dropped on the three-hour and 28-minute affair.

Stewart's JGR teammates -- Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch -- finished third and 15th, respectively.

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing