STEWART EARNS HARD-FOUGHT NINTH AT SONOMA Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Scores Seventh Top-10 of 2010, Moves to 10th in Points Tony Stewart and the Office Depot/Old Spice team fought their way to a solid ninth-place finish in Sunday's...
STEWART EARNS HARD-FOUGHT NINTH AT SONOMA
Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Scores Seventh Top-10 of 2010, Moves to 10th in Points
Tony Stewart and the Office Depot/Old Spice team fought their way to a solid ninth-place finish in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
It was the third consecutive top-10 result for Stewart and his fifth straight top-15 finish dating back to the May race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
While the effort moved Stewart into the top-10 in points, it was a frustrating day for the driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet and crew chief Darian Grubb as they struggled with the car's handling throughout much of the 110-lap event around the 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course.
"We just struggled getting forward bite all weekend," Grubb said. "The car was actually really good with balance left versus right, compared to what we had last year, so we thought we had a pretty good setup. When the track got slicker, we thought it was our strong point, but it went away pretty quick."
Stewart ran in the top-10 for much of the race and led once for two laps, but after what was scheduled to be his final pit stop of the day on lap 75, he reported his car's handling was going away. Even though the No. 14 Chevrolet had enough fuel to go to the end of the race, Stewart and Grubb decided to pit under caution on lap 86 as they were in 16th position and having difficulty passing cars.
"The position we were in, we weren't fast enough to pass cars, but the guys around us had tires and we didn't, so we were at a point where we had to try it just to see what we could maintain for position," said Grubb, who called for four tires and a splash of Sunoco fuel and returned Stewart to the track in 24th-place.
The strategy worked, for in the final 24 laps, Stewart was able to move from 24th to an impressive and hard-fought ninth-place finish.
"Top-10 is not exactly what we came here to do," Grubb said. "We came here to win the race. But, getting a top-10 and moving into the top-10 in points -- that's what we needed to do."
Stewart's teammate, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing, finished 16th.
Jimmie Johnson won the Toyota/Save Mart 350k to score his 51st career Sprint Cup victory, his fourth of the season and his first at Sonoma. It was Johnson's first road course win in 17 career starts.
Robby Gordon finished 3.105 seconds behind race winner Johnson, while Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top-five. Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Boris Said, Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 14 laps, with six drivers failing to finish.
With round 16 of 36 complete, Stewart is 10th in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He gained one spot and now has 1,983 points, 351 markers behind series leader Harvick and 108 points ahead of 13th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. Newman maintained his 15th place in the standings. He has 1,850 points and is 82 points back of 12th-place Carl Edwards, who holds the final spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship with 10 races remaining before the Chase begins.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the June 27 Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.