No reprieve for Stewart in Richmond HENRICO COUNTY, Va., (May 3, 2003) - The Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway has typically been the springboard to Tony Stewart's season in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Wins in the 2001...
No reprieve for Stewart in Richmond
HENRICO COUNTY, Va., (May 3, 2003) - The Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway has typically been the springboard to Tony Stewart's season in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Wins in the 2001 and 2002 spring races were catalysts to point finishes of second and first, respectively.
But this year's spring event at the .750-mile oval offered no such reprieve, with Stewart finishing 41st for the second straight week after an unexpected meeting with the turn one wall on lap 222.
While trying to avoid the spinning Ford of Elliott Sadler, Stewart drove his #20 Home Depot Chevrolet high. And while Stewart successfully avoided Sadler, his foray into the high side of the track - filled with the detritus of worn-out Goodyear tires - prompted the nose of his #20 machine to slide hard into the outside wall. The damage was severe, and Stewart's race was over. It was the team's fourth DNF (Did Not Finish) of the season and their second in as many weeks, dropping Stewart from 11th to 17th in points - the team's lowest standing of the season.
The resulting yellow flag was one of 15 caution periods of the evening - a race record which consumed a total of 91 laps. Stewart, who started ninth, was not alone in his troubles, as the slick race track caused eight other drivers to fall out due to accidents. Five more drivers also suffered crashes, but after lengthy repairs, were able to finish the event.
When the race finally ended - eight laps short of its scheduled 400-lap distance due to rain - veteran driver Joe Nemechek had scored his third career Winston Cup victory. Nemechek led a race-high 155 laps, including the final 64.
Behind Nemechek was Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte, who notched his third straight second-place finish. Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home third, while Robby Gordon and Mark Martin rounded out the top-five.
Point leader Matt Kenseth finished a solid seventh, maintaining his lead over second-place Earnhardt by 20 points. Stewart's deficit to Kenseth now stands at 437 markers, but 25 point races still remain.
The Winston Cup Series takes a weekend off in observance of Mother's Day before heading to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for The Winston on May 17. Live coverage of the non-point event begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT on FX.