DOVER, Del. - Tony Stewart was leading the Armed Forces Family 400 at Dover International Speedway poised to score his second win this season when a pit road miscue sent him from first to 32nd. Stewart was penalized one lap for having his front...
DOVER, Del. - Tony Stewart was leading the Armed Forces Family 400 at Dover International Speedway poised to score his second win this season when a pit road miscue sent him from first to 32nd. Stewart was penalized one lap for having his front tire slightly out of his pit box on lap 140.
Dover International Speedway is known for its small, tight pit stalls, and when Stewart came in for service he angled the nose of his car slightly right to avoid blocking the No. 24 of Jeff Gordon. The right front tire of the No. 20 was a fraction of an inch over the line.
The Winston Cup official monitoring the No. 20 pits did not alert The Home Depot crew, so that Stewart could back up behind the line -- a courtesy often extended by NASCAR officials. Once the pit stop was underway, the call against Stewart 'for pitting outside his box' was levied.
"If you come over the line, they tell you to stop and go back and you're OK," said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart's crew chief. "I can't see from where I'm at, and the tire changer didn't say anything. We weren't over the line; we were on the line by an inch. What are you going to do? A rule's a rule."
Stewart, not known for his warm fuzzy personality or patience, tore off pit road and retook the track obviously ill tempered.
Stewart began to work diligently from the back of the field to once again race up front with the leaders and get his lap back. On lap 202, the goal was within his reach. However, race leader Ryan Newman did not allow him past. Stewart missed coming across the line to beat Newman by a few inches. Newman, who has had his own run of misfortune lately, was in no mood to extend any graciousness to the No. 20 team.
The No. 20 was clearly the class of the field, not a concept lost on Newman. Newman was not about to allow Stewart to get by him, and assist him into a position to win the event.
"I knew he (Stewart) had a really fast race car and at times the fastest on the race track," said Newman. "But we could do whatever we could do. From what I was told he screwed up in the pits and he pitted out of his box. He had to take the one-lap penalty. That's not a piece of tape or a blown tire or something like that. That's his own screwup."
Stewart was not happy.
"He (Stewart) tried to bump me," Newman elaborated. "I had to run clear up the racetrack. I guess it's just kind of typical. He was pretty upset, and I'd be upset, too."
Eventually, Stewart did regain his lap at 218 and rebound to a fourth place finish. The top five result, however, did not seem to balm Stewart's ennui. As he exited the No. 20 Chevy Sunday with a scowl perched across his face, yelling expletives and refusing to talk to anyone, his fury over the situation and antagonism towards NASCAR was tangible.
Since winning his first Winston Cup championship last year, Stewart has had a run of bad luck. Despite six top-ten finishes, he has also had four finishes of 34th or worse, and four DNF's this season. Currently, he sits 16th in championship rankings, 550 points out of first place.