Nadeau negates Stewart's strong Bristol run. BRISTOL, Tenn., (Aug. 24, 2002) - Lapped traffic can be the undoing of even the most flawless run at the tight and fast Bristol Motor Speedway. The .533-mile oval allows little room for error, and...
Nadeau negates Stewart's strong Bristol run.
BRISTOL, Tenn., (Aug. 24, 2002) - Lapped traffic can be the undoing of even the most flawless run at the tight and fast Bristol Motor Speedway. The .533-mile oval allows little room for error, and when one driver makes a mistake, it tends to have repercussions for others.
Such was the case for Tony Stewart in Saturday night's Sharpie 500. With his #20 Home Depot Pontiac comfortably in ninth-place, the #44 Dodge of Jerry Nadeau, two laps down to the leader, forced his way in front of Stewart and promptly hit the brakes. The left front nose of Stewart's Pontiac impacted Nadeau's bumper, rupturing an oil line and sending Stewart to the pits for repairs. He emerged three laps down, racing the #19 Dodge of Jeremy Mayfield and the #1 Chevrolet of Steve Park for 24th position. Stewart, who had been running as high as fifth earlier in the 500-lap affair, was out of contention because of another driver's error, which proved doubly unnecessary considering it occurred under caution.
The event seemed to ring prophetic, for heading into the Sharpie 500, Stewart said, "Bristol is one of those places where there are so many variables and so many things can go wrong during your race that everything has to be absolutely perfect for you to even stay in the top-five."
While it wasn't perfect, Stewart salvaged the best finish he could - 24th - holding Mayfield and Park at bay. It was far from the run Stewart displayed earlier in the evening, coming from 26th on the grid to fifth by lap 355, but it was still an important finish considering the implications upon the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship point standings.
Stewart maintained his fourth-place point standing, but dropped from 84 points behind leader Sterling Marlin to 139 points back. Had his crew not been able to make repairs to the #20 machine, the best finish Stewart could've earned would've been 36th - a difference of 30 points. Call it making the best of a bad situation.
Jeff Gordon made the best of the bumping and banging that embodies Bristol, ending a 31-race winless streak that dated back to last year's race at Kansas City. Gordon, who started from the pole, led the most laps of any driver, taking the point for a total of 235 circuits. The run also moved Gordon from fifth to third in the point standings, 111 points arrears Marlin.
Following Gordon to the line were Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth.
Mark Martin, despite his 23rd place finish, maintained his second-place point standing with a 95-point margin between himself and Marlin. Rookie Jimmie Johnson, who had occupied third in the standings, dropped to fifth after an accident relegated him to a 34th place finish. The 145 points that separate the top-five drivers in the point standings is the second closest margin between the top-five with 12 races remaining in NASCAR history. In 1984 the top-five were separated by 111 points with 12 races remaining.
The next event on the Winston Cup schedule is the Sept. 1 Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Live coverage by TNT begins at 1 p.m. EDT.