Handling Woes Stomp Stewart's Bristol Run Home Depot Driver Leads Eight Times for a Race-High 245 Laps but Finishes 12th Tony Stewart led eight times for a race-high 245 laps in Sunday's Food City 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Bristol...
Handling Woes Stomp Stewart's Bristol Run
Home Depot Driver Leads Eight Times for a Race-High 245 Laps but Finishes 12th
Tony Stewart led eight times for a race-high 245 laps in Sunday's Food City 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway and appeared ready to log his second career win at the .533-mile oval. But with 25 laps to go the handle on the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet went away, dropping Stewart to 12th when the checkered flag waved.
"I am really disappointed," said Stewart. "We had an awesome car all day. I felt like I ran the most patient race I have ever run at Bristol. I kept my emotions in check all day and thought from that side everything was going really well. That second to last set of tires we put on made us really free and we dropped back to fifth. Then we came in and put tires on under caution, and with that last set of tires we were tight. I couldn't turn it through the center (of the corner) at all. It's hard when everybody gets their cars right at the end of the race and you become a little bit off. It was hard to hold those guys back. So we just tried to race smart there and bring our car home in one piece."
While disappointed with the 12th place finish, it was a solid effort.
Stewart started the 500-lap race from the pole as Friday's qualifying session was canceled due to weather, prompting NASCAR to set the starting field by 2005 car owner points. And with Stewart being the reigning Nextel Cup champion, he was awarded the pole.
Stewart used the prime track position to stay up front and out of trouble. He led the first four laps and then segments 61-74, 76-79, 82-134, 142-157 and lap 161 when an early series of green flag pit stops was interrupted by a caution.
After taking four tires and fuel while the cars of Kyle Busch and Sterling Marlin stayed out, Stewart restarted in third on lap 167. It took until lap 225 for Stewart to re-take the lead, but once he go there he paced the field for the next 107 laps before ceding the point to Kevin Harvick on lap 332. Stewart got the lead back when quick pit work by the #20 Home Depot Racing Team put him out front for a restart on lap 340. Stewart led the next 46 laps before the handling on his orange and black Chevrolet began to fade, as eventual race winner Kurt Busch took the lead on lap 386 with Harvick in tow.
Stewart did all he could to stay within the top-five, but as his machine slipped around Bristol's concrete surface, it appeared that the rides of his competitors rode the track's tight confines as if they were on a rail.
With 50 laps to go Stewart's top-five status was tenuous at best. That point was made clear on lap 476 when Bobby Labonte, Carl Edwards and Mark Martin all slipped underneath Stewart when he drifted high in turn one. In one lap Stewart went from fifth to eighth, the beginning of a rapid descent that continued to the end of the race.
While the Food City 500 did not yield the desired outcome, Stewart was able to add 10 valuable bonus points to his championship point tally by leading the most laps. As a result, he moved from 12th to ninth in the season standings.
Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammates - Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley - finished 14th and 33rd, respectively. Hamlin is 17th in points while Yeley sits 23rd.
Kurt Busch scored his 15th career Nextel Cup victory and his fifth at Bristol by winning the Food City 500. Harvick -- last year's Food City 500 winner -- finished second, while Matt Kenseth, Edwards and former Joe Gibbs Racing driver Labonte secured the rest of the top-five. Martin, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne comprised the rest of the top-10.