STEWART BATTLES TO NINTH-PLACE FINISH AT DOVER Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Scores Fourth Top-10 of 2010 Tony Stewart and the Office Depot/Old Spice team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) took a step in the right direction Sunday by finishing ninth...
STEWART BATTLES TO NINTH-PLACE FINISH AT DOVER
Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Scores Fourth Top-10 of 2010
Tony Stewart and the Office Depot/Old Spice team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) took a step in the right direction Sunday by finishing ninth in the Autism Speaks 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
It was Stewart's 15th top-10 finish in 23 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1-mile oval and his fourth top-10 of 2010. More importantly, it was Stewart's first top-10 finish since placing second in March at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, ending the longest top-10 drought of his 12-year Sprint Cup career.
"Well, it's slowed the bleeding down a little bit," said Stewart, now in his second year as a driver/owner. "But we still had one run in the race there when we came into the pits third or fourth on a caution, put four (tires) on and all of a sudden we go back out and we go to the last car on the lead lap. We raised the track bar an eighth of an inch and that doesn't make it that bad. But it's definitely a step in the right direction with our run today. It's not a perfect run, by any means, be we're going in the right direction."
Stewart started 16th in the 400-lap event and quickly moved into the top-10 while informing crew chief Darian Grubb that his car was good on entry and exit and only slightly tight in the center of the corner. Grubb worked on the car throughout the next three pits stops by making small tire pressure and chassis adjustments to the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala.
Unfortunately, after the third pit stop of the day, Stewart's car began to handle erratically and the red and black No. 14 machine fell back to 16th by lap 224 and was in danger of going one lap down to the leaders.
A caution saved Stewart from losing the lap, whereupon he and Grubb set out to fix the handling issues. The decision was made to put the car's setup back to how it had been at the start of the race. The call provided immediate dividends, for during the final 120 laps -- of which the last 109 were conducted under green -- Stewart managed to move from 15th to his respectable ninth-place finish.
With Stewart's effort at Dover, he gained four spots in the championship standings. He is now 14th with 1,397 points, 37 markers behind 12th-place Martin Truex Jr.
Teammate Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala, came home 13th. The finish allowed Newman to gain one position in the point standings. He's now one spot ahead of Stewart in 13th with 1,404 points, 30 digits out of the top-12.
Kyle Busch won the Autism Speaks 400 to score his 18th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Dover. Busch now has 69 career victories across NASCAR's top three divisions (Sprint Cup -- 18, Nationwide -- 34, Camping World Truck 17).
Jeff Burton finished 7.551 seconds behind Busch in the runner-up slot, while Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and David Reutimann rounded out the top-five. Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Stewart and Joey Logano comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 24 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the May 22 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.