Tony Stewart led only once for two laps in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C., but they were the most important ones, as he paced the final two circuits around the 1.5-mile oval after getting...
Tony Stewart led only once for two laps in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C., but they were the most important ones, as he paced the final two circuits around the 1.5-mile oval after getting by Matt Kenseth for the lead on lap 98 of the 100-lap event. Stewart's margin of victory over the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was .971 of a second.
It was Stewart's first victory as driver/owner for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), which he co-owns with Oxnard, Calif.-based Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world. He became the first driver/owner to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup sanctioned event since Ricky Rudd won a point-paying race in October 1998 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
It was also the first All-Star race win for Stewart, who had four top-10 finishes in 10 previous starts in the event. Stewart became the second driver/owner to win the All-Star Race, joining Geoff Bodine, who accomplished the feat in 1994.
"I'm so proud of everyone on this Office Depot/Old Spice team," said Stewart, who won more than $1 million for his victory in the All-Star Race. "To get those guys in victory lane and to get these guys on the team that haven't been to victory lane yet -- to get them there for the first time, that means more than a million dollars does to me. It's that gratifying to get this group of guys in victory lane.
"They've been an awesome group of guys to work with, and that's the most gratifying part about it. It's about seeing those guys and seeing them celebrating and smiling in victory lane when I got there and seeing how happy they were and the excitement on their faces. There's no check that you can write in any amount that's going to make up for that and could take the place of it."
The All-Star Race is divided into segments of 50, 20, 20 and 10 laps, with a competition caution thrown after the completion of the first three segments for a 10-minute break before the final 10-lap shootout.
Stewart, who started 15th, was in the top-10 for much of the night, but didn't become a factor at the front of the pack until he began battling with Kenseth in the final five laps of the event.
"I can't believe he gave me the bottom," Stewart said. "We got a run on him two laps before and got a run off of (turn) two at the bottom and got beside him. I overdrove it in (turn) three and just got down there and got loose trying to clear him, and he was able to get back by us. Then he went to the bottom in (turns) one and two the next lap. I don't think he was great down there, but he was good enough, I think, to hold us off. But the next lap we go back through there and we got a run off of (turn) four on him.
"I was prepared to go at least to the middle or to the top and run somewhere different because I knew I wasn't going to be able to follow him through there again. And on the entry he ran up high, and I was like, 'Wow, I can't believe he's giving me the bottom again.' I got down there, got in the gas real quick and got by. And it was the best the car was all night. Darian (Grubb, crew chief) made a handful of adjustments on that last caution and, man, did it wake that car up. It just was stuck those last 10 laps."
Stewart's teammate, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army/Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala SS for SHR, finished a disappointing 18th after battling with the leaders in the closing stages of the race. On lap 93, Newman made contact with the wall while engaging in a three-way battle for the lead with Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch. The damage to Newman's car sent him to the garage, seven laps shy of the finish.
Following Stewart and Kenseth across the stripe was Kurt Busch, while Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Mark Martin, Kyle Busch, rookie Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr., comprised the remainder of the top-10.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to point-paying racing on May 24 with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. The longest race on the Sprint Cup schedule gets underway at 5:45 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning at 5 p.m.