Tony Stewart took the lead on the second lap around Watkins Glen and stayed out front for half the race, earning his second win of the season. It was plucky move by Stewart, who had complained of stomach and leg cramps before the race and almost...
Tony Stewart took the lead on the second lap around Watkins Glen and stayed out front for half the race, earning his second win of the season. It was plucky move by Stewart, who had complained of stomach and leg cramps before the race and almost abandoned the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Chevrolet, before deciding to tough it out to score his 19th career victory.
Stewart led 46 of the race's 90 laps on his way to his second win at Watkins Glen. Stewart obviously was still ailing when he exited his race car in Victory Lane, immediately jumping on a golf cart and heading for his motor coach without addressing television or media outlets.
"I need ten minutes," was all Stewart said as he hurried off to the driver/owner lot. Despite being brought a fresh driver suit, Stewart did not re-emerge from his motor coach and join the No. 20 team in post-race merriment, marking a third week of lackluster Victory Lane celebrations for NASCAR and its television partners.
Road course specialist Ron Fellows, piloting the No. 1 DEI Chevrolet, grabbed second despite starting dead last.
"We finished second before," said Fellows. "But I am disappointed. I just didn't have enough for Tony (Stewart) there at the end."
"Second, again. Darn."
Mark Martin scored his third top-five finish of the year, with a third place result.
"It was tough, it's a hornet's nest back there," commented Martin. "It was wild. I hate starting in the back. But we worked on the car to make it run well at the end of the race. They really had it wired; it was strong at the end. I had so much bad luck this year; I could see something going wrong at the end. Just glad it didn't."
Casey Mears and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. complete the top five.
"The car was good at the start of the race," Earnhardt said. "I asked for a little more and the car got away from us. We had some great calls and we gained some ground on the guys in front of us in the points, so, all-in-all a good day."
Qualifying was washed out for NEXTEL Cup teams on Friday, due to "weepers" on the race track that saturated the racing surface even after storms had subsided. That placed some of the road racing aces at the rear of the field, including road course expert Fellows (43rd) and series regular Robby Gordon (23rd).
Through a variety of pit and fuel strategies, both racers wheeled their cars into the top 15. With 34 to go, Fellows and Gordon both came down pit road for a splash and go; leader Stewart came into the pits a lap later and took four tires and gas.
After stops had cycled through the lead lap cars, Brendan Gaughan inherited the lead followed by Matt Kenseth. Both teams decided to gamble on fuel mileage and stay out as long as possible, in hope that yellow flag laps would allow them to run to the end on fuel.
Stewart rejoined the field in fifth, while Fellows and Gordon solidly placed themselves into the rear of the top ten. Gaughan gave up the lead to Casey Mears with 23 to go, who quickly pulled out to a 3-second advantage on the field, but a caution with 18 to go bunched the field allowing the No. 20 Chevy of Stewart to motor past Mears on the restart for the top spot.
The favorites coming into the race, Jeff and Robby Gordon, both experienced ailments on the closing laps of the event. With 13 to go, brake problems for Robby Gordon prevented the No. 31 car from competing for the win, while Jeff Gordon had just fourth gear to work with; with just seven laps left. (Robby Gordon earned 16th while Jeff Gordon finished 21st).
Fellows made his way to second, but could not close the gap between the No. 1 Chevy and the stronger car of Stewart. As the checkered flag flew, Stewart took the win with a 1.5-second advantage over Fellows.
It was another dreadful afternoon for series points leader Jimmie Johnson, as he lost a transmission early in the event, relegating him to a 40th place result. He still maintains the lead in points, but now by just 40 markers over Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-128), Tony Stewart (-192) and Matt Kenseth (- 267) complete the top five.
A bad day for Ryan Newman plunged him from 10th to 12th, 29-points outside of the top-10. Kasey Kahne sits 11th, and moves within 24-points of 10th spot; while teammate Jeremy Mayfield climbs into the coveted 10th position.