Fontana: Tony Stewart race report

STEWART RALLIES TO SEVENTH IN SOCAL Home Depot Driver Third in Points After Two Races Tony Stewart finished a solid seventh in the rain-delayed Auto Club 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the newly named Auto Club Speedway of Southern ...

STEWART RALLIES TO SEVENTH IN SOCAL
Home Depot Driver Third in Points After Two Races

Tony Stewart finished a solid seventh in the rain-delayed Auto Club 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the newly named Auto Club Speedway of Southern California in Fontana.

In a race that struggled to find a rhythm, as wet weather plagued the event by delaying the start of Sunday's race by over two-and-half hours and halting it twice before it could be completed on Monday, Stewart's No. 20 Home Depot Toyota struggled to stay in the top-10.

The two-time Sprint Cup champion started sixth and quickly climbed to third by just the third lap around the two-mile oval, but Stewart eventually started going backward -- a slide that was halted only temporarily when NASCAR officials red-flagged the race on lap 22 for water seepage.

The heavy rains that had uncharacteristically doused the Southern California track raised the water table considerably, and no matter how hard safety crews attempted to dry the track, water would bubble up and seep through cracks and seams in the track's surface. "Weeping," as drivers referred to it, was especially pronounced in the track's corners, and NASCAR needed to halt the race for a little over an hour after a multi-car crash on lap 21 was triggered when Casey Mears lost control of his car after it broke traction on one of the wet spots in the track's corners.

Racing resumed on lap 26, but stuttered to a stop when light rain returned from lap 41 to lap 47, and again on lap 87 when heavy rain forced NASCAR to red flag the race a second time. Try as they might, safety crews could not dry the track once the rain had abated, as water continued to seep onto the racing surface. Finally, NASCAR made the call to restart the race at 10 a.m. PST on Monday.

Unfortunately for Stewart, his car's ill-handling ways restarted as well. With a No. 20 machine that was too loose on entry and exit through the track's 14-degree banked corners, Stewart couldn't roll through the center of the corner they way he liked.

But crew chief Greg Zipadelli and the rest of the team kept working to improve The Home Depot Toyota, making track bar, wedge and tire pressure adjustments in an effort to better the car's handling. On lap 141, Stewart re-entered the top-10, and in the race's final 20 laps, he picked off Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick to rise to seventh and collect his second top-10 finish in as many races.

"We had pretty much the same balance from last night to today," said Stewart, who finished third in the season-opening Daytona 500. "It didn't really seem like the change from night to day affected our car too much."

Stewart is third in the championship standings, just 19 points behind series leader and teammate Busch.

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Casey Mears , Jamie McMurray , Mark Martin