Martinsville Puts Stewart Back on Top Second-Place Run Gives Home Depot Driver 15-Point Lead with Four Races Left MARTINSVILLE, Va., (Oct. 23, 2005) - Tony Stewart and the ...
Martinsville Puts Stewart Back on Top
Second-Place Run Gives Home Depot Driver 15-Point Lead with Four Races Left
MARTINSVILLE, Va., (Oct. 23, 2005) - Tony Stewart and the #20 Home Depot Racing Team dominated Sunday's Subway 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, leading 283 of 500 laps and generally showing their heels to the rest of the field. The only thing they didn't do was win the race on the tiny .526-mile oval.
Jeff Gordon stayed out while the rest of the field pitted midway through the race to gain track position, and by the time the end of the race came around, Gordon was in the lead and rolling. Stewart brought his Home Depot Chevrolet to pit road on lap 344 and did not lead again, although he was right on Gordon's bumper in second place when the checkered flag waved.
"It was a solid day," said Stewart. "We just could never get the car 100 percent right. When the track started cooling off, Jeff and Jimmie (third-place finisher Jimmie Johnson) started getting it going good."
Stewart took second place from Johnson with 13 laps remaining, running low underneath Johnson into turn one. The two touched, and Johnson slid up the track while Stewart drove by underneath.
"We were a little bit better on the restarts, and that's where we were able to get by Jimmie," said Stewart. "He came down across the nose and it got him loose and up the race track he went. I did the same thing that Jeff (Gordon) did in the spring (to Kurt Busch) and the same thing that Jeff did to me at Bristol in 2000. I just got that fender underneath there and that's all you need. It was just enough for us to get underneath Jimmie and got him loose and that was pretty much the end of it.
"There was no catching Jeff," added Stewart. "I don't know what makes him so fast at the end of the day like that. He was just too strong to keep up with. But it was a cool race, it was fun today and we led almost 300 laps, so we did what we needed to do."
Stewart and the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet started from the pole after setting a track record in Friday's qualifying session. From the start, he was untouchable, leading 45 of the firs 47 laps and 190 of the first 250. Despite having the fastest car on the track, Stewart and crew chief Greg Zipadelli tinkered with the handling to keep it turning well as the race progressed.
Over the final 141 laps, Stewart ran behind Gordon and Johnson, always close but never close enough. One reason for that was the lapped car of fellow driver Greg Biffle, who fought tooth and nail to remain the first car one lap down and put himself in position for the free pass back to the lead lap.
"I don't really understand why he held up Jimmie first and then me," said Stewart. "That kept both of us from having a chance to close in on Jeff."
At the end of the day, however, Stewart emerged with a second-place finish, all four fenders on the car and the point lead all to himself.
"In the short picture, when you lead nearly 300 laps you'd like to win the race," said Stewart. "But in the big picture, we are where we need to be right now and did the things we needed to do today, so we can't be too disappointed."
With only four races remaining in the 10-race Chase for the Championship, Stewart gained 15 points on Johnson to resume sole control of the point lead. Stewart earned 10 bonus points for leading the most laps, while Johnson did not lead at all on Sunday and finished third, one spot behind Stewart.
Gordon won the Subway 500, his fourth victory of the season and the 73rd of his Nextel Cup career. Stewart was second, while Johnson, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton rounded out the top five. Kurt Busch finished sixth, followed by Jamie McMurray, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman.
Live coverage of next week's Bass Pro Shops/MBNA 500 begins at 12 p.m. EDT on NBC.