Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), battled from a 34th-place starting spot to finish 13th in Sunday's Subway 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. In an event that saw a...
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), battled from a 34th-place starting spot to finish 13th in Sunday's Subway 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. In an event that saw a record number of cautions and even more gambling on pit road, the top-15 result was a welcome one.
From the drop of the green flag, Stewart began to charge through the field. His only complaint was that the car was a little loose and needed forward bite. By the first caution on lap 45, the No. 20 team had already picked up eight positions, but at Martinsville, track position is everything. Crew chief Greg Zipadelli brought Stewart onto pit road for fuel and air pressure adjustments, and in a move to garner better track position, changed only two tires on the Home Depot Chevrolet.
While his intentions were good, the small quarters of Martinsville's pit road threw a kink in Zipadelli's plans. Stewart tried to exit his pit stall after the stop was complete, but there was no room. Stewart had to put his machine in reverse to avoid hitting the car of David Reutimann, who was pitted in the stall directly in front of him. As a result, the No. 20 team lost valuable time on pit road.
The two-tire stop did offer some track relief however, with Stewart able to restart the race in 20th on lap 50.
From that point on, Stewart was quiet on the radio and relatively content with the way his race car was running. The Home Depot team continued to march toward the front using pit strategy and patience to pick off one position at a time.
By lap 248, Stewart had climbed through the field to second, but with all 43 teams utilizing varying pit road strategies, the No. 20 Chevrolet wouldn't stay there long.
Overall, it was an up-and-down day for the Home Depot team, as they yo-yoed from the back to the front to the back of the pack throughout the race. But with 80 laps to go and Stewart in eighth, it looked like the team might bring home its 11th Martinsville top-10 finish.
But as the race drew to a close, Stewart began to complain that the No. 20 Chevrolet had quit turning through the track's tight corners. He was in desperate need of forward bite. Zipadelli coaxed Stewart to stay on the race track, reminding him how valuable track position was. But by a caution on lap 459, Stewart had had all he could take. He needed major adjustments to the race car.
The Home Depot team pitted for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments and Stewart was forced to restart the race in 22nd with only 37 laps to go.
There were four more caution flags thrown in the final laps of the Subway 500, but for the most part, Stewart managed to stay out of trouble and was able to bring his No. 20 Chevrolet home in 13th.