Darlington: Tony Stewart race report

Hard-Fought 12th-Place Finish for Stewart at Darlington Home Depot Driver Closes Strong, Maintains Second in Points Tony Stewart, driver of the ...

Hard-Fought 12th-Place Finish for Stewart at Darlington
Home Depot Driver Closes Strong, Maintains Second in Points

Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished 12th in Saturday night's Dodge Charger 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway despite chasing his car all over the famed 1.366-mile oval.

Stewart started 13th and raced up to sixth in the first 24 laps. Three laps later, the first caution flag of the night waved for Brian Vickers' spin down the backstretch, and everyone dived onto pit road. Stewart complained of being a little loose when he got back on the gas in the corners, and crew chief Greg Zipadelli and The Home Depot crew made appropriate adjustments, with their quick pit work picking up a spot in the running order.

When the green flag waved on lap 31, Stewart immediately lost two positions but gained them back nine laps later. Unfortunately, that was the last time the orange #20 machine would see the top-five, as a persistent and serious loose condition began to creep in.

Soon after losing sixth-place on lap 58, Stewart radioed to Zipadelli that his car needed tightening up in the worst way. "Go way, way overboard on the tight side, and we'll be back," said Stewart. Another caution flag waved on lap 68, and Zipadelli threw a major adjustment at the car in an effort to tighten it up. A spring rubber and wedge adjustment went in the right side, a spring rubber came out the left side, and Stewart went back out in 12th.

He made up a spot early in the next run, but the loose condition remained constant. On the next stop Stewart said he needed that big adjustment again. "Let's go over the top and come back to it," he said to Zipadelli. Another wedge adjustment, followed by a track bar adjustment, went in on lap 94, and Stewart went back out in 11th.

Finally, on lap 151, Stewart couldn't catch the rear end of his Monte Carlo as he came off turn four. He spun, doing a complete 360, but didn't hit anything. He grabbed a gear and maintained his position, but it was time for more major changes. Spring rubbers went back in and a major track bar adjustment was made. The long stop cost him more positions, as he dropped to 25th, but the car was back on the road to a decent finish.

Stewart maintained his position through the next caution on lap 213. Stewart had two cars between himself and the leader when the yellow light flashed on. "Loose, loose, loose," was the way Stewart described his car.

Wedge and a shock adjustment were the changes Zipadelli made, and it helped, but Stewart was still mired back in 23rd for much of the next green-flag run. Elliott Sadler's spin on lap 249 happened right in front of Stewart, who deftly missed it to continue on. The resulting pit stop saw track bar and wedge adjustments made, and Stewart came in the next time by to have a spring rubber placed in the left rear.

Stewart restarted 24th, and 23 laps into the run, he radioed that the changes had worked. "You're not going to believe this, but I'm a little tight in the center, and the forward bite is 100-percent better."

Stewart began to climb up in the running order, one spot at a time. By the time the only green-flag pit stop rolled around with 52 laps remaining, he was 14th. Stewart gained two more spots, finally taking 12th from Martin Truex Jr. on lap 348.

Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammates - Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley - finished 10th and 26th, respectively.

Stewart continues to lead the trio of JGR drivers in the championship point standings. His 12th-place effort kept him second in the Nextel Cup point standings, 93 markers arrears series leader Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin and Yeley occupy the 13th and 23rd positions, respectively.

Greg Biffle scored his 10th career Nextel Cup victory and his first of the season by winning the Dodge Charger 500. Jeff Gordon finished second, while Matt Kenseth, Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. secured the rest of the top-five. Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Hamlin comprised the rest of the top-10.

-jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , J.J. Yeley , Martin Truex Jr. , Brian Vickers , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing