Joe Gibbs Racing's Tony Stewart raced from fourteenth place on the starting grid to the winner's circle at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday (July 29th) in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series AllState 400 at the Brickyard.
"This one I'm going to remember," said the thirty-six year old racer. "Both of my wins here are special. I beat a close friend Kevin Harvick today, and I can't think of anyone I'd rather race with for a win than him. It was just like Chicago except we were real vulnerable on the restarts. I kept scrubbing the tires, but I let Kevin get by me (on lap 135). After that it was just a matter of trying to get a run down the straight and get underneath him and make the pass."
"It's just awesome," added crew chief Greg Zipadelli. "The car was great and Tony and the crew did a fantastic job to get this win."
Juan Pablo Montoya, Sorenson's teammate and the man second on the grid at the start, finished runner-up by 2.982 seconds to Stewart. "I was lucky to finish second today. I just didn't have enough car to overtake Tony out there. The number twenty was just too fast. I don't think anybody had anything for Tony today. My car was just way too tight in (turn) one and three, but mainly it was just exciting and I'm happy. I could actually pass people and it was awesome. I could really go at it."
Jeff Gordon was third (3.756 seconds behind Stewart) after charging up through the field all day long. "We had a pretty good race coming from twenty-first. I wasn't sure how good we'd be in traffic, but we motored right on up there. At one point we had to take four tires and the car began to get tight; we didn't have anything for Tony. It was another great event and I'd have to say we're pretty happy right now."
The race went off under clear blue skies at a temperature in the low eighties as forty-three NASCAR-CUP racers kicked off the fourteenth Brickyard race and the first in which local open-wheel powers Ganassi Racing and Penske Racing flexed their IMS muscle by putting no fewer than four cars (Sorenson, Montoya, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch) into the top six spots on the grid.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. quickly moved to second on lap one as Stewart gathered momentum behind him, and by lap fifteen when a NASCAR-mandated "competition yellow" waved the top five of Sorenson, Earnhardt Jr, Stewart, Jeff Burton and Montoya were clearly a step ahead of the rest of the field.
There followed a number of yellow flag periods precipitated by Jeff Green colliding with the SAFER barrier in turn three and damaging the right side of his car. On lap 20 Newman made contact after spinning in turn four and smashed the left rear quarter of his car, bringing out another yellow flag.
Tony Rains, Kasey Kahne, and Robbie Gordon collided on lap thirty-eight after going three-wide in turn one, and a restart on lap forty-two brought another yellow when 2006 Brickyard champ Jimmie Johnson did substantial, eventually race-ending, damage to his car alongside J J Yeley, Bill Elliott, and Jamie McMurray.
A lap fifty-four restart brought one more yellow, this time with Scotty Riggs, Paul Menard, Casey Mears and Elliot Sadler spinning and collecting one another as the field once again roiled behind the leaders Earnhardt Jr, Stewart, and Montoya.
Earnhardt Jr's race ended on lap 135 with a magnificently blown engine and on the restart following a short yellow for cleanup, Harvick struck his blow by overtaking Stewart to lead for the next fifteen laps.
On lap 150 Tony Stewart pulled alongside Harvick along the backstretch of the Speedway, and from there the two engaged in one of the greatest side-by-side, bumping and grinding laps ever as each jockeyed for position and the lead.
Stewart pulled ahead in turn three, but with a car that was obviously loose, went slightly wide to open the door for Harvick on the inside. The two roared down the front straight of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway side-by-side until Stewart finally nosed ahead between the scoring pylon and the entry to turn one. He then began to inch away from the fading Harvick, who would eventually finish seventh.
Montoya and Gordon slid past Harvick next, then Kyle Busch ( who finished fourth) and Reed Sorenson who came home in fifth. Mark Martin ran his usual thoughtful, fast race and finished sixth, while Jeff Burton was eighth, Dave Blaney ninth and Matt Kenseth tenth.
The race covered an elapsed time of 3:24:28 at an average speed of 117.382 miles per hour before a capacity crowd in excess of two hundred and fifty thousand race fans. The race was Tony Stewart's thirty-first NASCAR-CUP victory in 304 races, and leaves him twentieth on the all-time wins list one behind Dale Jarrett. The win was also, of course, the second Brickyard championship (in nine attempts) for the Columbus, Indiana native who scored the win in 2005 on his way to his first NASCAR-CUP Championship season of that year.
Hendrick Racing's Jeff Gordon continues to lead the 2007 point standings. He has lead the point standings since Bristol and is now 371 points ahead of second-place Denny Hamlin.