STEWART AND CO. SALVAGE SEVENTH AT CHARLOTTE Home Depot Team Overcomes Pit Road Accident to Post 22nd Top-10 of 2007 Tony Stewart came from his 29th-place starting spot to crack the top-five 157 laps into Saturday night's Bank of America 500...
STEWART AND CO. SALVAGE SEVENTH AT CHARLOTTE
Home Depot Team Overcomes Pit Road Accident to Post 22nd Top-10 of 2007
Tony Stewart came from his 29th-place starting spot to crack the top-five 157 laps into Saturday night's Bank of America 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. But a pit road accident on lap 177 meant Stewart had to stage a second-half rally if he wanted to remain in contention during this year's Chase for the Nextel Cup.
The driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) did just that, as he came from 28th on a lap-180 restart to come home seventh in a green/white/checkered finish that extended the race three laps past its scheduled 334-lap distance.
"We couldn't have done it without the work of this race team, said Stewart, who claimed his 22nd top-10 finish of the season, good for second-most among full-time Nextel Cup drivers.
The work Stewart's Home Depot team had to perform was a renovation of the right front fender. That corner of the No. 20 Chevrolet was slightly scraped up after Paul Menard drove his No. 15 Chevrolet into Stewart's car as Stewart pulled out of his pit stall. But making matters worse was a second incident after Stewart hit the gas to get away from Menard. There, Stewart clipped the rear of Kasey Kahne's No. 9 Dodge further down pit road as Kahne attempted to enter his stall. The damage from that bit of contact was substantial.
The time lost on pit road was significant, and so too were the numerous stops afterward to reshape the right front fender. But thanks to two lengthy caution periods between when the accident happened on lap 177 to a lap-214 restart, the No. 20 team was able to rebuild the fender and keep Stewart on the lead lap.
"With the condition that right front fender was in, everybody did a really good job. Because, normally, you can't even salvage anything out of something like that because these cars are so aero sensitive," said Zipadelli, in reference to the aerodynamic balance a race car needs to handle the confines of Charlotte's 1.5-mile oval.
"The No. 15 car was a minor thing. I think everybody got to hollering on the radio and we never even saw the No. 9 car. That is what did the damage. The No. 15 just scraped the paint off. It didn't really do anything else. But with us rolling out, it would have been real easy for him to give us the go ahead, not that he has to, but it is about give-and-take. If you have respect for people and they are racing for something you are not, you kind of usually do that. If you don't, the roles will usually be reversed."
Stewart is competing for a championship. Menard is not. Hence, the No. 20 team's desire to see some give-and-take from non-Chase drivers for those actually competing for the championship.
"Obviously, you've got to look at what happened and how we finished as a good day," added Zipadelli, "but I'm probably more frustrated with the fact that we never should've been in that position. We shouldn't make mistakes like that. Things happen so quick and emotions are going and everybody's hollerin' on the radio that it's a shame it put us in that position."
But the position wasn't all that bad, for the seventh-place finish maintained Stewart's fourth-place standing in the championship point race.
Unfortunately, the winner of the Bank of America 500 was the same person who was the point leader coming into Charlotte. Jeff Gordon recorded his second consecutive Chase victory, his sixth of the season and the 81st of his career by winning the Bank of America 500, and in doing so, pulled out a 68-point lead over second-place Jimmie Johnson, a 78-point lead over third-place Clint Bowyer and a 198-point margin over Stewart.
Stewart's JGR teammates -- J.J. Yeley and Denny Hamlin -- finished 13th and 20th, respectively. Hamlin maintained his ninth-place point standing while Yeley moved up one spot to 18th.
Four races are down in the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup.