Perseverance Wins at Charlotte Stewart Overcomes Ill-Handling Race Car and Ill Feeling to Earn Sixth Top-10 of Season CONCORD, N.C., (May 30, 2004) - With his stomach in knots and his car's handling in chaos, Tony Stewart drove to a...
Perseverance Wins at Charlotte
Stewart Overcomes Ill-Handling Race Car and Ill Feeling to Earn Sixth Top-10 of Season
CONCORD, N.C., (May 30, 2004) - With his stomach in knots and his car's handling in chaos, Tony Stewart drove to a respectable ninth-place finish in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Charlotte. It was his sixth top-10 of the season and his second in a row, allowing the driver of the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet to maintain his fifth-place standing in the championship points race.
"The car felt worse than I felt," said Stewart, who battled feelings of nausea during the last two hours of the over four hour race. "We just missed it tonight. It was nobody's fault. I think we tried too hard to make sure that we didn't get tight at the end of the race, and instead we just ended up with a car that drove badly all night. Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) kept digging and I kept digging and we finally got the 'lucky dog' and got a ninth-place finish out of it."
The "lucky dog" Stewart referred to was his free pass back onto the lead lap following a caution on lap 369 when he was the first car one lap down - a status Stewart and Co. had been trying to earn since lap 127 of the 400-lap race when Jimmie Johnson was scorching the field. Stewart was the 30th car to go a lap down and it was hardly a surprise. The #20 machine was a handful, never running two laps the same around the 1.5-mile oval.
"I don't understand how it can be so tight at the beginning of a run and so loose at the end of it," said Stewart over the radio. "I'm loose in turns one and two and tight in turns three and four."
The two opposite handling conditions at two opposite ends of the race track provided a conundrum for Stewart and Co., as any adjustments that were made to help one aspect of the car's handling would adversely affect another.
But the team's perseverance paid off as soon as they rejoined those on the lead lap. Thirteenth in the running order when the race resumed on lap 373 - the last car on the lead lap - they were in perfect position to take advantage of the race's last caution period five laps short of the finish. With no track position to lose, Zipadelli called for four fresh tires to be bolted onto The Home Depot Chevrolet.
When the race restarted on lap 397, Stewart was able to use his new tires to pass Kurt Busch and Rusty Wallace to move into 11th. And on the last lap when Kasey Kahne tangled with Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte in turn one, Stewart benefited from their bad fortune as he passed both to take ninth.
Winning the longest race on the Nextel Cup schedule was the ever-dominant Johnson, who led 501 of the 600 miles. His eighth career victory and second of the season pulled him incredibly close to series point leader Dale Earnhardt Jr., as he is now just five points arrears Earnhardt in second.
The distant runner-up to Johnson was Michael Waltrip, while Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Elliott Sadler rounded-out the top-five. The rest of the top-10 featured Earnhardt, Casey Mears, Jeremy Mayfield, Stewart and Wallace.
The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the June 6 MBNA America 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Live coverage begins at 1 p.m. EDT on FX.