SMOOTH STEWART FINISHES SECOND AT POCONO Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Scores Third Runner-Up Finish of 2010 Tony Stewart survived rain delays and a red-flag period to score a runner-up result in Sunday's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 ...
SMOOTH STEWART FINISHES SECOND AT POCONO
Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Scores Third Runner-Up Finish of 2010
Tony Stewart survived rain delays and a red-flag period to score a runner-up result in Sunday's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
It was the third second-place finish of 2010 for the driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), with the others coming in March at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and in June at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. It was also the fourth time in the last five Sprint Cup races at Pocono that Stewart has finished third or better -- a stat that includes his first point-paying win as a driver/owner with SHR on June 7, 2009.
"This is what we need right now," said Stewart, who started on the pole for the 12th time in his 12-year Sprint Cup career. "This is what we've been looking for. We've got to just keep plugging away. We're not all the way there, but we're gaining on it and that's encouraging. This is the time of year when you want to be building momentum and not losing it. So, I'm pretty happy with this weekend."
After the race was delayed nearly an hour due to rain, Stewart stormed to the lead from his first-place starting spot and held the point for the first two laps around the 2.5-mile triangle before being passed by four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon.
Despite the handling of his car being tight, Stewart remained in the top-10 for the entire 200-lap event while crew chief Darian Grubb tinkered with the car's handling through a series of tire pressure and track bar adjustments.
Once the race got past the halfway point, Stewart became more pleased with the handling of his Office Depot/Old Spice ride and spent all but a few laps in the top-five throughout the final 125 miles of racing.
On lap 162, Stewart was in third-place when the race was halted by NASCAR officials due to an accident on the backstretch involving Kurt Busch, Elliott Sadler, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson. The debris from that accident, coupled with a rain shower that moved through the area, caused a 45-minute delay.
During the red-flag period, Grubb and Stewart had plenty of time to map out a strategy for the final pit stop of the day, which would occur on lap 170 once the race resumed under caution and pit road became open.
With weather still in the area, options varied as drivers could either take fuel only, or take two or four tires. It was a tough decision for crew chiefs and drivers alike, as the race could go the distance -- a scenario in which at least two tires would be the correct call, or the race could be cut short by rain, where taking only fuel and gaining precious track position would be the smart move.
After a quick check of the weather radar, Grubb called for four tires and the lightning-fast Office Depot/Old Spice team got Stewart off pit road ahead of the other teams that took four tires. Stewart would start ninth on the restart, as the eight cars ahead of him opted for either two tires or fuel only.
The green flag flew for the final time on lap 179 and it took Stewart only one lap to move from ninth to fifth, and by lap 186 he had moved back to third-place trailing only leader Greg Biffle, who had opted for two tires, and 2006 Indianapolis 500 champion Sam Hornish Jr., who had stayed out.
Stewart was able to get around Hornish on lap 191, but didn't have anything for Biffle, who cruised to a 3.598-second margin of victory.
"I didn't leave anything on the table at the end, that's for sure," said Stewart, who scored his 18th top-10 finish in 24 career Sprint starts at Pocono and his 11th of 2010. "I just went as deep as I could go into (turn) one and (turn) two every lap and got in the gas as hard and as soon as I could every time. I'm really proud of Darian Grubb and the pit crew on this Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy. They did an awesome job on that last stop and getting us a chance to fight our way up there. So, I'm really proud of this run."
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala for SHR, used late-race pit strategy to finish 12th. On the final pit stop of the day, he and crew chief Tony Gibson opted to make a fuel-only stop, which vaulted them from 24th to eighth. And even with tires that were well worn compared to the drivers around Newman that either took two or four tires, the U.S. Army pilot was able to take advantage of his newfound track position and post a solid result.
Biffle's victory in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 was the 15th of his Sprint Cup career, his first of the season and his first at Pocono.
Following Biffle and Stewart to the line were Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, while Gordon, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Martin Truex Jr., and Johnson comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 31 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish.
With round 21 of 36 complete, Stewart is eighth in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He gained one spot and now has 2,719 points, 361 markers behind series leader Harvick and 189 points ahead of 13th-place Martin, the first driver on the outside looking in at the 12-driver Chase for the Championship, which will be decided in the next five races. Newman held on to his 15th position in the standings. He has 2,426 points and is 138 points back of 12th-place Bowyer, who holds the final spot in the Chase.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Aug. 8 Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen at the Watkins Glen (N.Y) International road course, where Stewart is a five-time victor and the defending race winner.