Stewart Goes 'All In' to Deliver Armor All a Second-Place Finish at Texas; Late-Race Pit Stop Helps Vault 'Smoke' to Runner-Up Spot Life is full of decisions. Sometimes you make the correct decision and sometimes you make the wrong decision.
Stewart Goes 'All In' to Deliver Armor All a Second-Place Finish at Texas; Late-Race Pit Stop Helps Vault 'Smoke' to Runner-Up Spot
Life is full of decisions. Sometimes you make the correct decision and sometimes you make the wrong decision. Racing is no different, and Tony Stewart found that out when he finished second in Saturday's O'Reilly 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
A decision early in the race cost the driver of the No. 33 Armor All Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) several positions on the racetrack, while a decision late in the race helped him gain several positions when it counted.
After starting eighth, Stewart quickly moved into the top-five as the race remained under green for the first 50 laps around the 1.5-mile oval. The two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion brought his Armor All Chevrolet to pit lane under green on lap 54 and the KHI crew, led by crew chief Ernie Cope, executed a flawless pit stop in which they changed four Goodyear tires and filled the gas tank with fuel.
Just 12 laps later, the first yellow flag caution period of the day came out due to debris on the backstretch. It was then when Stewart and Cope made their first critical decision of the race, as they opted to pit for fuel only while all the other cars took on tires.
The gamble gave Stewart the lead when the race restarted on lap 72, but the advantage quickly went away as cars with fresher tires began passing the Armor All machine. Unfortunately for Cope and Stewart, the race went uncharacteristically green for the next 49 laps, causing Stewart to loose ground to the leaders and fall all the way to 11th-place.
Throughout the long, green flag run, Stewart informed Cope that in addition to his tires being nearly used up, he was also fighting a tight-handling racecar.
Once a caution finally came out on lap 121, Stewart was able to pit for much-needed tires while Cope and the Armor All crew got a chance to tweak the car's handling via a tire pressure adjustment and by pulling a half-rubber out of the left-rear spring.
The adjustment helped, but not as much as Cope and Stewart had hoped. So on lap 161 during a yellow flag pit stop, Cope made a major wedge adjustment to the Armor All Chevy which helped move Stewart to sixth by lap 177.
When the fourth and final caution flag of the day came out on lap 188, Cope and Stewart were faced with their second big decision. To pit or not to pit, that was the question -- and Cope and Stewart decided to bring the Armor All machine to pit lane for fresh tires, while the five cars ahead of them on the racetrack stayed out.
The gamble worked to near perfection, for once the green flag flew on lap 193, Stewart, who restarted in seventh-place, began picking off the cars in front of him. He was fifth by lap 195 and moved into the runner-up spot with three laps to go.
Unfortunately, there were not enough laps left to catch eventual race winner Kyle Busch, who dominated the O'Reilly 300 by leading four times for a race-high 178 laps.
"The fast car definitely won today," said Stewart, who won the October 2006 Sprint Cup race at Texas. "I'm really proud of Ernie Cope and all the KHI guys on the Armor All team. I need to thank Kevin and DeLana (Harvick) for letting me drive this thing. It's always fun and today was no exception.
"We had a set of tires left from early in the race when we took fuel only. At the end there, it was kind of a toss-up of what to do. We were sitting there sixth and there were 14 cars on the lead lap, so you knew the back-half of the field was going to come in, so it was kind of a gamble. I told Ernie that if it didn't work, it was my fault and I'd take the blame. I'm glad it worked out for us."
Stewart finished 1.447 seconds behind Busch, who scored his 23rd career Nationwide Series victory, his second of the season and his third consecutive win at Texas, as he swept both Nationwide Series races in 2008.
The four caution periods lasted for a total of 18 laps, with seven cars failing to finish the 200-lap race.
With five of 35 races in the books, the No. 33 Chevrolet for KHI is fourth in Nationwide Series owner points, just 48 markers behind the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing entry, which sits atop the standings.
The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the April 11 Pepsi 300 at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tenn.