STEWART ROLLS ANOTHER SEVEN AT MARTINSVILLE Keeps Leaders in His Sights All Day in Goody's Cool Orange 500 For Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet Impala SS for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500 NASCAR...
STEWART ROLLS ANOTHER SEVEN AT MARTINSVILLE
Keeps Leaders in His Sights All Day in Goody's Cool Orange 500
For Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet Impala SS for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway was an exercise in getting the most out of a good race car after cold, hard reality revealed that it just wasn't going to be a winning one.
After all was said and done during today's 500-lap excursion around the .526-mile oval, which was interrupted for some 30 minutes on Lap 353 because of a brief rain shower, Stewart found himself right where he started -- seventh. The Home Depot Chevrolet proved to be strongest on longer runs, of which there were several today, and Stewart remained a fixture in or near the top five for the first 450 laps.
He led twice for a total of 11 laps shortly before and after the race's midpoint. But subtle handling issues proved to be a frustrating handicap in the closing sprint to the finish as Stewart was just was not able to challenge for the race win. The seventh-place finish did, however, move him from 12th to eighth in the Nextel Cup Series point standings heading into the second off-weekend of the season.
"The longer the day went, the better everyone made their cars, but the more we were stuck with what we had," said Stewart, who has scored two of his six career short-track wins at Martinsville and still holds the track qualifying record he set at Martinsville in October 2005. "We fought tight in the center of the corner (in practice) yesterday and also center-to-late in the corner today, and it was a problem we just weren't able to fix. It was something that the typical changes you can make during a race just weren't going to fix. I guess the positive outweighing the negative today is that we jumped up in the point standings."
Stewart's JGR teammate Denny Hamlin started from the pole and finished third in the Goody's Cool Orange 500. He picked up three spots in the standings to occupy the sixth position. JGR teammate J.J. Yeley finished 23rd after starting fifth and dropped three positions to 18th in the standings.
Jimmie Johnson held off his teammate Jeff Gordon to win the Goody's Cool Orange 500 to score his 26th career Nextel Cup victory and his third at Martinsville. Gordon finished second, followed by Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jeff Burton, Stewart, Scott Riggs, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth comprised the remainder of the top-10.
The Nextel Cup Series takes a weekend off in observance of Easter before heading to Texas Motor Speedway for the April 15 Samsung 500.