Darlington: Tony Stewart race report (updated 2002-03-18)

Stewart Released From Hospital (2002-03-18) FLORENCE, S.C., (March 18, 2002) - Tony Stewart, driver of the ...

Stewart Released From Hospital (2002-03-18)

FLORENCE, S.C., (March 18, 2002) - Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac, was released in good condition from Carolinas Hospital System in Florence, S.C. earlier today. Stewart was X-rayed and given CT scans of the head, chest, back and pelvic area on Sunday, was admitted to the hospital for overnight observation, and underwent an MRI early this morning. All tests were negative.

RACE REPORT:

Stewart Sore But Safe After Darlington Wreck

DARLINGTON, S.C., (March 17, 2002) - After taking the lead on lap 219 of the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway Sunday, Tony Stewart seemed poised to notch his second straight NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory and the 14th of his career.

But a swerving Buckshot Jones ended Stewart's drive in a big way on lap 226.

Stewart went low to pass Jones and put him a lap down, but Jones veered low as well as he lost control of his #44 Dodge. Jones' loose car slid directly in front of Stewart's, slamming The Home Depot driver into the rear of Jones' car. That sent Stewart nose-first into the outside retaining wall. Heavily damaged, Stewart's car drifted down the track and into the racing grove. With nowhere to go, Jimmy Spencer barreled into Stewart's almost stopped car. The impact was a violent one, spinning the #20 Pontiac completely around.

Other drivers caught up in the melee were Ken Schrader, Ward Burton, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Dave Blaney, Johnny Benson, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Gordon, who was running second but stayed on the track with damage to his right front nose.

When the smoke cleared, however, it was obvious that Stewart had received the most damage.

Schrader climbed from his car and walked toward Stewart's, removing Stewart's window net to check on his fellow racer. Seeing Stewart unconscious, Schrader motioned for safety workers to attend to Stewart first.

After a little over a minute, Stewart regained consciousness and removed himself from the car where safety workers promptly put him on a stretcher. Taken by ambulance to the infield care center, Dr. Tony Cutry evaluated Stewart and recommended that he be airlifted to Carolinas Hospital System in Florence, S.C.

Conscious and alert, Stewart complained of pain in his lower back and numbness and tingling in his left foot.

Once at the hospital, Stewart was x-rayed and given CT scans of the head, chest, abdomen and pelvis. According to Dr. Cutry, all tests were negative. But with Stewart still experiencing tenderness in his lower back, the decision was made to keep Stewart overnight for further observation.

The unexpected exit from the 293-lap race left Stewart 36th in the final rundown, dropping him in points from fifth to 12th. After being just 101 points behind point leader Sterling Marlin entering Sunday's race, Stewart leaves 221 points behind.

The end result was the exact opposite of Stewart's race progression. He started the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 in 36th position, and made little forward progress until his first pit stop on lap 39. "I'm tight!" Stewart hollered over the radio.

Crew chief Greg Zipadelli made a track bar adjustment and an air pressure adjustment, while the pit crew performed a flawless stop. Stewart returned to the track in 26th spot, and when the green flag dropped he found his car to be much more behaved. "This is the best this thing has driven all weekend," said Stewart.

Stewart made his way to 20th before another round of pit stops while under caution on lap 91 elevated Stewart to 10th. Quick pit work was again the reason.

Pit stop number three on lap 134 brought Stewart to seventh, and after passing Spencer for sixth on lap 189, pit stop number four on lap 201 earned Stewart fifth.

Stewart then picked off Mark Martin and Bobby Labonte for fourth and third, respectively, following a restart on lap 210. He then passed Marlin for second on lap 213 before setting his sights on Gordon, the leader since lap 202. Stewart caught Gordon on lap 219, and held the point before his accident on lap 226.

Marlin the point leader wound up Marlin the winner, scoring his second victory of the 2002 season. Elliott Sadler finished second, with Kevin Harvick third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth and rookie Ryan Newman fifth.

The next event on the Winston Cup schedule is the March 24 Food City 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Live coverage by FOX begins at 1 p.m. EST.

-jgr/hdr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Ward Burton , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Ken Schrader , Jimmy Spencer , Sterling Marlin , Buckshot Jones , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Johnny Benson , Elliott Sadler , Dave Blaney , Mark Martin