STEWART'S STREAK OF TOP-10S STYMIED AT NEW HAMPSHIRE Home Depot Driver Finishes 12th While Teammate Hamlin Wins Tony Stewart didn't have the best car in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at New ...
STEWART'S STREAK OF TOP-10S STYMIED AT NEW HAMPSHIRE
Home Depot Driver Finishes 12th While Teammate Hamlin Wins
Tony Stewart didn't have the best car in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, but he did have a top-10 performer, something the two-time Nextel Cup champion has grown accustomed to.
But after top-10 finishes in his last three races, Stewart's streak came to an end when he brought his No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet home in 12th-place after 300 laps on the 1.058-mile oval.
"We had a decent car," said Stewart, who won the July race at New Hampshire in 2000 and 2005, "but I kind of messed up the last pit stop and that put us behind."
Stewart came into the pits on lap 255 while the race was under caution. But with his stall at the beginning of pit road, picking it out while getting slowed down enough to mind the 45 mph pit road speed limit with 42 of his competitors around him attempting to do the same thing proved difficult. As a result, Stewart nearly overshot his pit stall, forcing him to turn into his box at an awkward angle.
A less than clean entry into his pit stall and the delay of his crew in being able to get around the car to change four tires and fill it with fuel added up to a loss of nine positions. Stewart came onto pit road in 10th, but he left in 19th.
"We needed to get the car to turn better in the center, because that's where we were losing all our time," said Stewart, who had dropped from fifth to 10th in the 40 laps prior to that fateful last stop. "Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) kept making adjustments and the car got better each time. The last stop wasn't any different from that standpoint, but we left in a bit of a hole."
Stewart used the race's final 45 laps to dig out of that hole as best he could. With a Home Depot Chevrolet that responded well to the adjustments made by Zipadelli, Stewart carved his way to 12th before the checkered flag dropped.
Leading the field to that checkered flag was Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin. The sophomore driver scored his third career Nextel Cup win and his first of the season by winning the Lenox Industrial Tools 300. It also marked the 55th Nextel Cup win for Joe Gibbs Racing, its first of the season and its first with the new Car of Tomorrow.
Hamlin remains the lead Joe Gibbs Racing driver in the championship point race, as his win maintained his second-place standing. Hamlin is now 156 points arrears series leader Jeff Gordon. Stewart's 12th-place finish allowed him to hold steady at sixth, while fellow Joe Gibbs Racing teammate J.J. Yeley finished 22nd to gain two spots in the championship standings. Yeley is now 16th in points, 48 behind 15th-place Kurt Busch.
Finishing second to Hamlin in the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 was Gordon, while Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five. Jeff Green, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.
The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the July 7 Pepsi 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway The race starts at 8 p.m. EDT with live, high-definition coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at 6:30 p.m.