Bristol Beat-down Stewart Caught Up in Two Accidents, Finishes 19th in Sharpie 500 BRISTOL, Tenn., (Aug. 28, 2004) - There once was a time when Tony Stewart enjoyed racing at Bristol Motor Speedway. But after being caught up in two separate ...
Stewart Caught Up in Two Accidents, Finishes 19th in Sharpie 500
BRISTOL, Tenn., (Aug. 28, 2004) - There once was a time when Tony Stewart enjoyed racing at Bristol Motor Speedway. But after being caught up in two separate accidents and finishing a disappointing 19th in Saturday night's Sharpie 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race, that time is long gone.
In Stewart's first six races at the high-banked .533-mile oval, he scored a win, a pole, two other top-fives and led 484 of a possible 3,000 laps (16.1 percent). But since that win in August of 2001, Stewart has finished no better than 15th in his last six Bristol outings as a result of the beating and banging that typifies Bristol.
Needless to say, his attitude has changed.
"I'm just ready to get out of here," said a weary Stewart moments upon climbing from his #20 Home Depot Chevrolet with nary a straight piece of sheet metal. "As soon as you get anywhere near the back - or even the middle - you're wrecked."
Stewart's #20 machine appeared to be a top-10 contender, despite its tight handling condition through Bristol's 36 degree corners. During the first 350 circuits of the 500-lap race, Stewart held steady between 14th and 12th. But when the caution flag waved for debris on lap 359, crew chief Greg Zipadelli and Stewart agreed that racing outside of the top-10 was not their reason for coming to Bristol.
The duo opted to pit, sacrificing track position for the opportunity to make The Home Depot Chevrolet better. They went a round up on the track bar and added four tires and fuel while other cars stayed out. Stewart returned to the track in 18th, hopeful that he was now better off. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to find out.
On lap 365 Robby Gordon tagged the rear bumper of Dale Jarrett, triggering a six-car crash in turn two. Stewart was amongst the unwilling victims, getting spun around before being drilled in the driver's side door by Ricky Craven.
As bad as the hit looked, Stewart and his ride appeared okay. The left side fenders were pulled away from the tires on the ensuing pit stop while Stewart shook off the aches permeating his left shoulder.
When the race restarted on lap 373, Stewart was 19th, the last car one lap down. Still positive, he keyed the mic to tell his crew, "We'll be okay."
Fate, however, had other ideas.
On lap 388 another multi-car accident off turn two captured Stewart, this time inflicting heavy right front damage after a spinning Rusty Wallace crossed Stewart's path.
It took three pit stops to make The Home Depot Chevrolet drivable, which put Stewart another lap down.
>From there, it was all about making laps and just finishing, something 12 of the 43 drivers who started the race failed to do. Stewart eventually crossed the stripe in 19th, three laps down.
The tough result didn't dent Stewart's championship point standing, as he held steady at fourth, 185 points behind series leader Jeff Gordon. Second-place Jimmie Johnson is 161 points up on Stewart and third-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 110 points ahead. Fifth-place Matt Kenseth is 39 points arrears Stewart while sixth-place Kurt Busch is a more distant 144 points behind.
And while it certainly was not the finish Stewart expected in his 200th career Nextel Cup start, some solace could be taken in the $20,000 contribution made by sponsor Home Depot to the Tony Stewart Foundation in honor of their driver's milestone.
Scoring a popular win in the Sharpie 500 was Earnhardt, who earned his fourth victory of the season and the 13th of his career. Trailing in second was Ryan Newman, while Johnson, Jeff Burton and Elliott Sadler rounded-out the top-five. Comprising the remainder of the top-10 was Sterling Marlin, Jamie McMurray, Busch, Kenseth and Jarrett.
The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the Sept. 5 Pop Secret 500 at California Speedway in Fontana. Live coverage by NBC begins at 7 p.m. EDT.