Perseverance and Hard Work Earn Stewart a Top-10 at Michigan BROOKLYN, Mich., (August 22, 2004) - Tony Stewart drove his ...
Perseverance and Hard Work Earn Stewart a Top-10 at Michigan
BROOKLYN, Mich., (August 22, 2004) - Tony Stewart drove his #20 Home Depot Chevrolet to a solid ninth-place finish in Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway.
It didn't come easy though, as Stewart and crew chief Greg Zipadelli had to deal with an ill-handling race car that proved fitful throughout the 200-lap race.
"It wasn't a good day. We fought a tight condition," said Stewart, who started fourth after the field was set by car owner points when Friday's qualifying session was rained-out. "We've been running these things long enough to know that we weren't going to get it fixed. We were just going to have to dial around it and try to get the best balance out of the car that we could.
"I thought 'Zippy' and the guys were busting their tails. We threw big changes at the car every time we came in. Considering the amount of work for each stop with the number of stops we had, I though they did a really good job helping us get where we ended up."
The team made six pit stops during the race, and all involved major chassis adjustments while the car was being filled with fuel and fitted with four new tires. And because the car needed constant tinkering, any form of pit strategy was non-existent. As other teams took two tires during their pit stops or made lightning-fast four-tire changes, the #20 team made four-tire pit stops each time. And whenever their stops were made, a few extra seconds were always needed to remove a spring rubber, raise the track bar, add a few rounds of wedge, etc.
"We gave up track position twice," said Zipadelli. "You give up five or eight spots late in the run and they're really hard to get back because everybody else has had the opportunity to work on their car too. Overall, for us to have run in the top-10 for most of the day, go back to 20th and then work our way back into the top-10 under some green flag runs - we'll take it. We passed a lot of cars and made some gains.
"It's still disappointing because I thought we should be better than that. But for the way the day went, it wasn't bad. We'll keep our momentum. It's another top-10 and it keeps everyone uplifted and believing in each other."
The ninth-place result was Stewart's sixth top-10 finish in the past seven races and his 13th top-10 of the year. It further solidified his fourth-place standing in the championship point chase, as fifth-place Matt Kenseth is now 71 points arrears Stewart.
And the #20 team's strong finish on what could've been a disappointing day yielded even more dividends when misfortune struck those ahead in points.
Jimmie Johnson is now the former series leader, as a third consecutive engine failure relegated him to a 40th place finish. That dropped him to second in points with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon taking the top spot. Gordon leads Johnson by 68 points, while third-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 139 points out of first. And Stewart, who just four races ago was a daunting 434 points out of first, is now 165 markers away - a gain of 269 points.
Winning the GFS Marketplace 400 was Greg Biffle, who scored his second career Nextel Cup victory and his first of 2004. Trailing a distant second was Biffle's Roush Racing teammate Mark Martin. Dale Jarrett was third while Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne took fourth and fifth, respectively. Kurt Busch, Gordon and Kenseth finished sixth, seventh and eighth, while Carl Edwards settled in behind Stewart in 10th in his first ever Nextel Cup race.
The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the Aug. 28 Sharpie 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Live coverage by TNT begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT.