Loudon: Tony Stewart race report

Stewart Smokes 'Em at New Hampshire Tony Stewart Dominates New England 300 to Score Third Win in Four Races LOUDON, N.H., (July 17, 2005) - Tony Stewart dominated Sunday's New England 300 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at New Hampshire ...

Stewart Smokes 'Em at New Hampshire
Tony Stewart Dominates New England 300 to Score Third Win in Four Races

LOUDON, N.H., (July 17, 2005) - Tony Stewart dominated Sunday's New England 300 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway, leading six times for a race-high 232 laps to take his third victory in his last four races.

"The cautions fell when we needed them, our pit stops were awesome, and what can you say about Tony Stewart?" said crew chief Greg Zipadelli as his driver scaled the frontstretch catchfence to climb atop the flagstand, just as he did three races ago when he book-ended his Sonoma (Calif.) win with a victory at Daytona (Fla.). "I'm just so proud of this Home Depot team. There is just no way to describe this. It's just awesome."

Awesome indeed. Stewart started the 300-lap race from 13th and by lap 50 passed Ryan Newman for first. From there, the orange and black #20 Home Depot Chevrolet was a familiar sight at the front of the 43-car field, as Stewart led laps 51-59, 69-117, 119-164, 166-217, 219-239 and finally, laps 246-300.

The only time when Stewart made the New England 300 entertaining was when he briefly battled Kurt Busch for the lead between laps 240 and 245.

"There wasn't any panic at all," said Stewart when asked about Busch's charge following a restart. "Our car was taking six or seven laps to come in. It was weird, because at the beginning of the race we could pass cars at the front of a run. But in the middle and latter stages of the race, the guys got their cars better and it got to where our car really wasn't that strong, and for six or seven laps, it would take that long for it to get a lot of grip and lock down. But early in the race, we could get by guys until they got their cars better."

"We had a lot of good track position and that helped us. Kyle Busch was able to stay with us longer on every restart. Then at the end of the day both of the Busch (brothers) - the shrub and the bigger Busch - were both good enough. Kyle was almost good enough to get by and Kurt got by. So it was in that six- or seven-lap window where we just didn't have as much grip as we needed. But once the tires came in we ran Kurt back down and got by."

The win was Stewart's second at the 1.058-mile oval, as he won a rain-shortened New England 300 in July 2000. It was also the 22nd win of Stewart's Nextel Cup career, tying him with Terry Labonte for 25th on the NASCAR all-time win list.

"I have a lot of confidence right now," said Stewart, who lopped 66 points from Jimmie Johnson's championship point lead. "A year or two ago, I probably would've flipped out when Busch got by me. But I was the one who called Zippy and said not to get worked up about this and that it would come to us in a couple of laps. And it did."

Stewart maintained his third-place standing in the series point standings, but he sits just eight points arrears second-place Greg Biffle and 85 points behind Johnson.

"Hopefully this will just carry through to the Chase," said Stewart in regard to the final 10-race, playoff style run to the championship. "We've got an awesome shot at winning this championship and every one of these guys in the Home Depot uniforms behind me knows it."

Finishing second to Stewart was Kurt Busch, while Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte turned in a strong third-place performance.

"Bobby switched his radio to my channel and congratulated me," said Stewart. "I asked him where he finished because I couldn't see and he said he finished third, which was the best news all day. It's finally showing that it's not just one of us that can do it. It shows that the package we brought was solid. Bobby and I have two totally different driving styles, so it felt good for both of us to make this package work. On Monday, the morale for the race shop will be at an all-time high."

Kyle Busch came home fourth and Greg Biffle was fifth. Rounding out the top-10 were Kasey Kahne, Newman, Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the July 24 Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The race begins at 1:40 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by TNT.

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Kyle Busch