Tony Stewart kept his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet out of trouble on Sunday to win the attrition-filled Tums Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway. This is his third win of the season and third victory in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“I think I was the only guy that didn’t wreck with anybody today,” Stewart said.
I don’t think anybody’s ever passed Jimmie Johnson on the outside.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Chevrolet and Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevrolet, finished second and third. Kevin Harvick finished fourth in the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to give the manufacturer a sweep of the top-four positions.
The race was laced with 18 cautions, and the action got hairy both in the opening laps and near the end of the 500-lap event. The first 100 laps saw five cautions, and the yellow flag waved seven times in the final 100.
Throughout the caution-filled race, pit strategies varied, resulting in a variety of cars at the point throughout the event. When the action settled down for somewhat lengthy green-flag runs, the No. 48 and No. 24 cars, along with the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas -- the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin and No. 18 of Kyle Busch -- looked to be the class of the field.
Most of the front-runners pitted during the 15th caution of the race that came out after contact between the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Matt Kenseth and the No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota of Brian Vickers. The contact, sent Vickers into a spin. Johnson, expecting more cars to stay out, remained on the race track while most of the rest of the lead lap cars headed down pit road.
“It (staying out) ended up being the right call,” Johnson said.
Although he was on older tires, Johnson managed to stay up front for most of the remaining laps. But he found himself next to Stewart on the final restart of the race with under five laps to go. When the race went back to green, Stewart was able to get by Johnson on the outside and drove on to the win.
“I don’t think anybody’s ever passed Jimmie Johnson on the outside,” Stewart said.
Stewart made his way from outside the top-20 into the top-10 three different times throughout the race, partly through pit strategy.
“I didn’t have a winning car by any means,” Stewart said.
With his win, Stewart climbed to second in points, trailing Carl Edwards, who drove his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford to a ninth-place finish, by eight points.
“He (Edwards) better be worried,” Stewart said. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Harvick moved up to third in points, 21 out of first, with his fourth-place finish.
Sean Irvan jackman for Front Row Motorsports No. 38 was injured during a pit stop. An update on his condition will be forthcoming.