FOURTH AT BRISTOL MOVES STEWART TO SECOND IN POINTS Home Depot Driver Clinches Chase Berth with 17th Top-10 Finish of 2007 Tony Stewart notched his sixth straight top-10 finish and the 17th of the 2007 season by finishing fourth in Saturday ...
FOURTH AT BRISTOL MOVES STEWART TO SECOND IN POINTS
Home Depot Driver Clinches Chase Berth with 17th Top-10 Finish of 2007
Tony Stewart notched his sixth straight top-10 finish and the 17th of the 2007 season by finishing fourth in Saturday night's Sharpie 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
The summer hot streak that has included three wins in four races has moved Stewart from seventh to second in points, and with still two races remaining before the Chase for the Nextel Cup begins Sept. 16 at New Hampshire, Stewart has clinched a berth in this year's Chase.
Bristol served as a microcosm of Stewart's ongoing summer surge, as the driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) started the 500-lap race 23rd and rallied his way into the top-10 after a lap-378 restart. He rose to seventh on lap 402, and stayed there until the last 10 laps whereupon he used the outside groove of the resurfaced .533-mile Bristol oval to surge past Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr., to take fourth.
"We had the opportunity to move around and didn't have any pressure from behind," said Stewart, who won the Bristol night race in 2001. "I couldn't get by these guys on the bottom, so I just started trying the top and found some grip up there. I think everybody had gotten so committed to the bottom or all the way to the top, and I kind of found a sweet spot there in the middle to get around.
"We had enough of a gap behind us that it gave us the flexibility to move around and try some different lines. I found some ways to get the Home Depot Chevy to cut through the corner and really square my exit off to where I could really dig up off the corner. I could have settled for eighth-place real easy, and I feel really proud that we came back and finished fourth."
Stewart's eighth top-five of the year combined with the DNFs (Did Not Finish) of his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin and Roush Fenway driver Matt Kenseth moved Stewart to a season-high second in points. Hamlin had held the second spot coming into Bristol, but a blown engine left him last in the 43-car field. Kenseth, who had been third in points, was done in by an accident that cut short his evening and gave him a 39th-place result.
Stewart's other JGR teammate, J.J. Yeley, finished 13th in the Sharpie 500, which moved him up one spot to 20th in points.
Stewart has a four-point lead over third-place Hamlin and a 70-point lead over fourth-place Kenseth. Stewart trails series point leader Jeff Gordon by 349 points. In the last six races, Stewart has gained 190 points on Gordon.