STEWART SOLDIERS TO 13TH-PLACE FINISH AT CHARLOTTE Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Struggles With Car's Balan Throughout 500-Mile Race Tony Stewart soldiered to a respectable 13th-place finish in Saturday night's NASCAR Banking 500 NASCAR Sprint...
STEWART SOLDIERS TO 13TH-PLACE FINISH AT CHARLOTTE
Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Struggles With Car's Balan Throughout 500-Mile Race
Tony Stewart soldiered to a respectable 13th-place finish in Saturday night's NASCAR Banking 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C. The pilot of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) struggled with an ill-handling racecar throughout much of 334-lap event, but the tenacious drive allowed Stewart to pick up his 24th top-15 finish of 2009.
"We were loose at the beginning of a run, then we got to where after about 20 laps, we would start getting tight," said Stewart, who came into the series' return trip to Charlotte with high hopes after winning the track's non-point Sprint All-Star Race in May. "It was just one of those nights where we couldn't really hit the balance of it. Where we got hurt the most was on starts and restarts when we were all packed up there. We couldn't make up any ground and couldn't get in the gas hard. We just gave up a lot of time on the front of runs."
Stewart's assessment was spot-on, for after starting fifth in the 43-car field, he dropped back to 14th by the time the race's first caution flag flew at lap 36. Crew chief Darian Grubb constantly tinkered with the chassis setup of the Old Spice/Office Depot Chevy, and progress was made, but not before Stewart dropped all the way to 20th by lap 98.
A couple of savvy, two-tire pit calls by Grubb gained Stewart some valuable track position, and while the No. 14 machine was never perfect, the smart pit strategy allowed Stewart to bulldog his way back into the top-10 by lap 188. Still, the competition in the race was stout, and Stewart's stay among the top-10 was short-lived. Nonetheless, perseverance and dedication allowed the team to salvage 13th when the checkered flag dropped.
Stewart's SHR teammate, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 TRANSFORMERS: "Revenge of the Fallen" Chevrolet Impala SS, came home 11th to score his 20th top-15 finish of the year.
Jimmie Johnson beat Matt Kenseth by 2.303 seconds to win the NASCAR Banking 500 and score his 46th career Sprint Cup victory, his series-leading sixth of the season and his sixth at Charlotte. The three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion is now tied with two-time Sprint Cup titlist Buck Baker for 13th on the all-time win list for NASCAR's top division.
Kasey Kahne finished third, while Jeff Gordon and rookie Joey Logano rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Kurt Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 42 laps with four drivers failing to finish the race.
Both SHR drivers are represented in this year's Chase for the Championship. Stewart remained fourth in the standings, but is now 155 points behind Chase leader Johnson. Newman climbed two spots to eighth and is 288 markers out of first.