STEWART FIGHTS TO FIFTH AT MICHIGAN; BACK IN CHASE Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Scores Sixth Top-10 of 2010, Moves to 11th in Points Tony Stewart and the Old Spice/Office Depot team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) finished a solid fifth in...
STEWART FIGHTS TO FIFTH AT MICHIGAN; BACK IN CHASE
Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Scores Sixth Top-10 of 2010, Moves to 11th in Points
Tony Stewart and the Old Spice/Office Depot team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) finished a solid fifth in Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
It was the second consecutive top-five result for Stewart as he finished third last week at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. More importantly, it moved the driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala from 13th in the championship standings to 11th, putting him inside the elite 12-driver Chase for the championship by 57 points over 13th- place Clint Bowyer, which will be finalized in 11 more Sprint Cup races.
"I'm pretty excited about it," said Stewart, who now has 15 top-10 finishes in 23 career Sprint Cup starts at Michigan. "That's the best car we've had in a long time, so I'm really proud of our guys. We're definitely gaining on it. I felt racy today. It was a pretty good day for the Old Spice/Office Depot Chevy."
Stewart started 17th in the 43-car field and quickly found his way into the top-10, where he remained for most of the race. Perhaps the only hiccup of the day came while Stewart pitted under caution on lap 49 while in seventh place.
During the stop, when the pit crew was changing the right-rear tire, one of the lugnuts that was being taken off the old set of tires flew threw one of the openings in the wheel and landed on the wheel hub. It was a one-in-a-million chance and it cost the team precious seconds as they had to remove the lugnut before attaching the new tire.
While Stewart restarted 11th, it didn't take him long to move back into the top-10 and, ultimately, his final finishing position of fifth.
"I'm really proud of Darian (Grubb, crew chief) and everybody on the Old Spice/Office Depot team," Stewart said. "They did a great job this week. I feel like we're starting to gain on it. Two good runs in a row and two top-fives in a row is exactly what this team needs right now.
"We just keep plugging away and doing what we do. I'm not as panicked about the top-12 right now as I think some of the guys that are close to that bubble. If we keep riffling off top-fives like this, we won't have to worry about it. We'll be there. We may not have been the best car out there today, but we were definitely a top-six or -seven car all day long. I'm really proud of the effort. I feel like we're starting to make some ground. There's no reason to panic. It's not going to make us go faster. It's just a matter of trying to figure out what we've got to do to get what we're missing, and I feel like we've made some steps in that direction today."
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished 32nd after debris damaged the splitter of his racecar and severely affected the car's aerodynamics.
Denny Hamlin won the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 to score his 13th career Sprint Cup victory, his series-high fifth of the season and his first at Michigan.
Kasey Kahne finished 1.246 seconds behind Hamlin in the runner-up spot, while pole-sitter Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Stewart rounded out the top-five. Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were four caution periods for 14 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 200-lap race.
With round 15 of 36 complete, Stewart has 1,840 points, 329 markers behind series leader Kevin Harvick. Newman lost one position to fall to 15th in the standings. He has 1,735 points and is 91 points back of 12th-place Mark Martin.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the June 20 Toyota SaveMart 350k at the Infineon Raceway road course in Sonoma, Calif.