MAGIC MOMENTS AT THE MAGIC MILE Stewart Drives Old Spice Toyota to Victory at New Hampshire With eight wins in 18 NASCAR Nationwide Series races for the No. 20 team of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) already this season, it's tough to put a finger on ...
MAGIC MOMENTS AT THE MAGIC MILE
Stewart Drives Old Spice Toyota to Victory at New Hampshire
With eight wins in 18 NASCAR Nationwide Series races for the No. 20 team of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) already this season, it's tough to put a finger on which would be the sweetest.
But Saturday's dominating victory by Tony Stewart and the No. 20 Old Spice Toyota in the Camping World RV Sales 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon certainly ranks among the best of all time for crew chief Dave Rogers, who hails from nearby Marshfield, Vt. No sooner had Stewart crossed the start-finish line a final time after leading the final 65 laps around the 1.058-mile oval and a race-high 75 laps in all, Rogers wanted his driver to be sure and fetch the checkered flag on his way to victory lane.
"This one's a special one ... it's my home track," Rogers said to Stewart over the radio. "It's yours, bud. You deserve it," Stewart radioed back. Meanwhile, David C. Rogers, who first brought his son, the future JGR crew chief, to this track in 1990 when the Nationwide Series made its first appearance at The Magic Mile, stood teary-eyed in the pit box as the post-race celebration began.
It was a crafty call in the pits by Rogers the crew chief on a lap-128 stop under caution that put Stewart in position to score his fifth Nationwide Series win of the season and the seventh of his career. Having planned to make it a four-tire stop with some major chassis adjustments, Rogers noticed a majority of the leaders had taken only two tires. As soon as Stewart's right-side tire change was complete, Rogers sent the No. 20 Old Spice Toyota on its way, and Stewart restarted the race in third-place behind Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle with 68 laps to go. Edwards took no tires on his pit stop, and Biffle took two.
"We had a terrible day," said Stewart sarcastically with those attending the post-race press conference breaking into laughter. "No, we had a good day. Obviously, any time you end up in victory lane, it's a good day. It shows the depth of this team today. For this being a home race for Dave (Rogers), it puts a lot of pressure on him and it puts a lot of pressure on all of us because we all want to win for him and his dad. To get in a position there on the last pit stop, we were a top-five car all day and we could lead for a little bit, but we would get too tight and the guys behind us would catch us and go by. But that last stop, that's what won us the race and that was Dave's call halfway through the pit stop. He called just a two-tire stop and the plan was for four. That got us track position and we were able, at the beginning of the run, to get the lead. And the adjustments that he made, just on the right-side tires with wedge and everything on that last stop, that was enough to get us close enough to keep us in the lead for the rest of the day."
"That was the advantage we got with Tony qualifying so well that we get to pit down there toward turn one, and I just watched what everyone was doing," Rogers said of the final pit stop. "Immediately, a parking lot erupted and they were all coming, I knew we were going to get buried in traffic and have a bad day, so I called the audible and went for two tires and hoped for the best. Tony, he always drives a brilliant race when he's in our car. He doesn't push it when he doesn't have to. He beat those guys through traffic and he gives us a lot of credit for the stop. But I think the driver had a lot to do with it, too."
As the leaders next crossed the start-finish line after the final restart, Stewart made his way by Biffle on the front straight for second-place on lap 133. Two laps later, Stewart made almost the exact move on Edwards for the lead, and it never appeared to be in doubt over the final 65 laps even though Denny Hamlin in the No. 32 Braun Racing Toyota was in relatively close pursuit all the way to the finish.
Some distance behind Hamlin was Kyle Busch in JGR's No. 18 Toyota, who dominated the early stages of the race by leading 63 of the opening 110 laps but didn't have anything for either Stewart or Hamlin down the stretch.
"I had nothing, really, for the last 15 or 20 laps," said Stewart when asked how he held off Hamlin down the stretch. "We were still about two changes away from being where we wanted to be. But the important thing was not knowing what was going to happen, and what was going to happen when we got to traffic, and if we were going to get in a situation where we were going to have a green-white-checkered (finish). I was trying to take care of the right-front tire because we were still too tight, but you could tell that Denny decided at the same time that it was time for him to make another stab at it. He ran us down quite a bit there, but then we got into traffic and I got through traffic pretty good. To see myself and Denny and Kyle all run one-two-three like that, it shows what a lineup we have at Joe Gibbs Racing."
Busch finished third, and the combined 138 laps led today by Stewart and Busch pushed JGR's lap lead total on the season to 1,646 of a possible 3,344 laps (49.2%) in Nationwide Series competition. Stewart has now led 501 of those laps in his seven starts. Overall, JGR Toyotas have accounted for 11 wins and six poles in the 18 Nationwide Series races run thus far. The eight won by the No. 20 team have been scored by four different drivers -- five by Stewart, and one each for Hamlin, Busch and 18-year-old Joey Logano.
After starting eighth today, Stewart fought an increasingly tight condition but still was able to race his way to the front, reaching the top-three by lap 14, second by lap 19, and his first lead of the day on lap 22, albeit for just 10 laps before a weaving lapped car set a pick in front of him and allowed Clint Bowyer to get back by him for the lead on lap 32.
Stewart's victory kept the No. 20 car first in the Nationwide Series owner standings, extending its lead to 173 points ahead of the No. 2 entry of Richard Childress Racing after 18 of 35 races on the Nationwide Series schedule.
There were five caution periods for 22 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish the 200-lap race.