Stewart Surges to Strong Bristol Finish Home Depot Driver Finishes Eighth to Record 10th Straight Top-10 BRISTOL, Tenn., (Aug. 27, 2005) - If there ever was a race track that could derail Tony Stewart's summer hot streak it would be Bristol ...
Stewart Surges to Strong Bristol Finish
Home Depot Driver Finishes Eighth to Record 10th Straight Top-10
BRISTOL, Tenn., (Aug. 27, 2005) - If there ever was a race track that could derail Tony Stewart's summer hot streak it would be Bristol Motor Speedway.
The tight and fast .533-mile bullring is known for humbling those who race within its tight confines. And even with five wins in eight races and nine straight top-10 finishes entering Saturday night's Sharpie 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race, Stewart and the #20 Home Depot Racing Team knew that Bristol posed as a potential pitfall.
After 500 laps of hard racing, consider the pitfall avoided. Stewart finished eighth to record his 10th straight top-10 finish, and in doing so, greatly extended his lead in the championship point standings. Stewart now holds a commanding 213-point lead over second-place Jimmie Johnson, a gain of 87 points since the Michigan race two weeks ago.
But getting that eighth-place result was far from easy, as Stewart had to rally from 19th with less than 30 laps remaining.
With his Home Depot Chevrolet never quite handling the way he would've liked, Stewart had to manhandle the #20 machine throughout the three-hour and eight-minute affair.
He hovered between 12th and 15th for much of the night, but dropped back to 22nd following a restart on lap 378 when he got stuck on the outside of a line of cars that freight-trained him to the inside.
Stewart slowly worked his way to 17th - his original starting position - before the second to last caution of the evening came out on lap 468.
Stewart took the time to come to pit road and get four fresh Goodyears, knowing there was little track position to be lost as those behind him would follow to get fresh rubber as well.
The hypothesis proved correct. Even by losing two spots to drop to 19th when the race restarted on lap 472, Stewart's fresh tires catapulted him ahead of those with older tires. Lap by lap Stewart moved up the leaderboard, climbing to eighth before the race's final caution flag waved on lap 495.
With the end of the race in sight, no one pitted. Stewart set his sights on the #0 of Mike Bliss and the #24 of Jeff Gordon as they occupied the seventh and sixth positions, respectively.
When the race restarted on lap 498, it was a two-lap dash to the checkered. Try as he might, it just did not provide Stewart enough time to gain any more spots.
"Everything fell into place for us right there at the end," said Stewart. "We just missed the setup tonight. But Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) and the guys just did an awesome job all night. They just kept working with it."
"Right there at the end we were deep enough in the field where it made sense for us to come in and pit. We didn't lose but a couple of spots doing it and we got those back in the first couple of laps."
"It's probably the hardest top-10 finish we've ever run here, but we did exactly what we needed to do tonight with the circumstances that we had. It finished out just fine."
Winning the Sharpie 500 was Matt Kenseth. It was his first win of the season and his 10th career Nextel Cup victory.
Finishing second was Jeff Burton, while Greg Biffle, Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace rounded-out the top-five. Gordon, Bliss, Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch comprised the rest of the top-10.
The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the Sept. 4 Sony HD 500 at California Speedway in Fontana. The race begins at 8:10 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC.