STEWART FINISHES 19TH IN WATERED-DOWN COKE 600 Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Remains Second in Points Persistent rain watered down the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C., forcing the race to ...
STEWART FINISHES 19TH IN WATERED-DOWN COKE 600
Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Remains Second in Points
Persistent rain watered down the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C., forcing the race to be postponed to Monday. Those same rains delayed the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' longest race, and then interrupted it three times before finally cutting it 173 laps short of its scheduled 400-lap distance.
It all conspired to leave Tony Stewart with a 19th-place finish, his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate Ryan Newman with a second-place finish, and a first-time race winner in David Reutimann.
The outcome came via a light rain shower that brought out the caution flag on lap 221. There, teams had a decision to make: gamble and elect not to pit, thereby gaining a huge amount of track position and hope that the rains never let up, or play it safe and pit for four tires and fuel so that when the rains abated and racing resumed, you'd leapfrog all those who elected not to pit and then leave them in the dust with your faster racecar thanks to having fresh tires.
For Stewart and crew chief Darian Grubb, the smart choice was the latter. With their No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet good enough to contend for the win on its own merit and with the team sitting second in the championship point standings, gambling was not a prudent option, especially with the pop-up showers seemingly going away as quickly as they washed over the 1.5-mile oval.
Unfortunately, the last pop-up shower decided to stay put, even when rays of sunshine suggested otherwise. As a result, after nearly two hours of consistent rainfall, NASCAR called the race official, as it had reached its halfway mark when lap 200 clicked off the board.
The chance to take their No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy to the front never materialized, with Stewart and Grubb having to settle for 19th. The flip side to their fortune was the result of their teammate Newman and the No. 39 U.S. Army/Haas Automation team. By electing not to pit, they inherited second, and it was the position they kept when the race was called.
"On a day like this... it's not a normal outcome," Stewart said. "But a good guy (Reutimann) won the race and they won it because they made the right call at the end. They put themselves in that position and you can't take anything away from that. It won't win you races consistently, but you're going to get something that way. It's good for David to get his first win and congratulations to him and his guys.
"And we're happy that Ryan (Newman) ended up with a good day. Obviously, it wasn't the outcome we wanted, but overall we've had a good showing here at Charlotte. To have Ryan get the pole and run second in the 600 and for us to win the All-Star Race, it's been a pretty good two weeks for us."
Indeed. Stewart came into the Coca-Cola 600 having won the non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race a week earlier at the very same racetrack. It was Stewart's first victory as a driver/owner, and the first NASCAR Sprint Cup-sanctioned win of any kind for a driver/owner since Ricky Rudd won on Sept. 27, 1998 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Newman continued SHR's strong showing by winning the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 on Thursday. It was the 44th pole of Newman's Sprint Cup career and the first for SHR.
The second-place finish bumped Newman up one spot in the championship standings, as he is now seventh, 184 points behind series leader Jeff Gordon. Stewart remained in second, 44 points arrears Gordon.
Reutimann's win in the Coca-Cola 600 was his first career Sprint Cup victory and the first for Michael Waltrip Racing. Finishing third behind Newman was Robby Gordon, while Carl Edwards and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five. Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Juan Pablo Montoya, rookie Joey Logano and 2003 Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were four red flag periods and six cautions for 40 laps, with only one driver -- Mike Bliss -- failing to finish the race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the May 31 Autism Speaks 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.