Ninth at California Keeps Stewart Eighth in Points Home Depot Driver has 45-point cushion over 11th place with one race before 'The Chase' Every driver vying for a spot in the 10-driver Chase for the Championship did what they had to do in...
Ninth at California Keeps Stewart Eighth in Points
Home Depot Driver has 45-point cushion over 11th place with one race before 'The Chase'
Every driver vying for a spot in the 10-driver Chase for the Championship did what they had to do in Sunday night's California 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at California Speedway in Fontana.
For Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet, a solid ninth-place effort in the 250-lap race around the spacious 2-mile oval meant that he held onto to his eighth-place point position.
For Kasey Kahne, 11th in points and the only driver capable of bouncing another driver out of the top-10, he went out and led eight times for a race-high 130 laps to not only win the California 500, but earn the maximum amount of points (190) possible.
And with just one more race - the Sept. 9 Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway - to decide who can and can't compete for this year's Nextel Cup title, a solid effort was needed by all combatants to keep their eligibility alive.
"I'm just glad we finished where we did," said Stewart, who has finished in the top-10 in points in all of his seven previous seasons, including first in 2002 and 2005. "We just fought tight in the center all race long. It was just one of those days that from the drop of the green flag, we fought tight and could never really get it to roll though the center of the corner. We didn't gain or lose on pit strategy or anything, we just needed to be better than we were. It's over, so we just need to forget about it and go on to next week."
Next week is Richmond, home to three of Stewart's 26 Nextel Cup victories and site of his only two wins in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Another good Richmond run is needed for Stewart, as just 45 points separate him from Kahne.
"We've been pretty good at Richmond, but so are the guys who are with us in the Chase," said Stewart. "We have one more week, so we will see. I am not very comfortable at all with 45 points. But if we go do what we normally do at Richmond, we should be all right. But it's no 'gimme' by any means.
"We just have to go out and do what we always do. That is how we won two championships and how we've been in the top-10 in points every year we've been in the series. It's what we've been doing for eight years and it isn't going to change next week. It's just a matter of going out and doing our job and not worrying about it. At the end of the day, we will see where we are."
Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammates - Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley - finished sixth and 19th, respectively, in the California 500. Hamlin's finish was his 13th top-10 of the year and his seventh straight. Yeley was in second-place with less than five laps to go, but a late-race pit for fuel relegated him to 19th.
Hamlin and Yeley now sit seventh and 28th, respectively, in points.
Even with his top-10 finish, Hamlin dropped one spot to seventh in the standings, 76 points ahead of Kahne. Yeley maintained his point position.
Kahne's win was his fifth this season - the most of all drivers - and the sixth of his career. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second, while Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon secured the rest of the top-five. Hamlin, Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Stewart and Dale Jarrett comprised the remainder of the top-10.
The Sept. 9 Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond begins at 7:40 p.m. EDT with live, high-definition coverage provided by TNT.