Engine Trouble Ends Stewart's Day at Martinsville MARTINSVILLE, Va., (Oct. 15, 2001) - Typically, 500 laps at Martinsville Speedway makes for a long and frustrating day. For Tony Stewart, the day was indeed frustrating, but uncharacteristically...
Engine Trouble Ends Stewart's Day at Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, Va., (Oct. 15, 2001) - Typically, 500 laps at Martinsville Speedway makes for a long and frustrating day. For Tony Stewart, the day was indeed frustrating, but uncharacteristically short.
A blown engine on lap 123 of Monday's Old Dominion 500 relegated The Home Depot Pontiac pilot to a 41st place finish, his lowest finish of the year.
It would be an understatement to say the race was a disappointment, as not only did it end a steak of top-10 finishes at six, but it also dropped Stewart from third to fifth in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship point standings.
Stewart came into the race as the defending champion, and quickly proved that his #20 machine would again challenge for the lead. He started from the eighth spot and cracked the top-five by lap 20. A strong pit stop while under caution on lap 56 enabled Stewart to handily pick off the cars of Matt Kenseth, Stacy Compton and Mike Wallace, and soon Stewart was in the tire tracks of race leader Jeff Gordon.
But on lap 120, Stewart radioed to crew chief Greg Zipadelli indicating that a problem was evident. Telltale white smoke began to spew from the exhaust pipes, and Stewart was forced to the garage area shortly thereafter.
The most significant damage came in the point race, as Sterling Marlin and Dale Jarrett dropped Stewart to fifth. Thirty-two points now separate Stewart from fourth-place Jarrett, while 50 points separate Stewart from third-place Marlin.
Stewart wasn't the only driver smarting from a loss of points after Monday's race. Ricky Rudd, who was Gordon's closest challenger in the point battle, suffered a similar fate to Stewart. Rudd finished 39th due to engine failure, and watched as Gordon all but assured himself of a fourth Winston Cup title. A stout 334 points now separates Gordon from Rudd with just six races remaining. In the battle for second, Stewart sits 159 points behind Rudd.
It wasn't all doom and gloom at Martinsville, however, as Ricky Craven scored a popular win. It was Craven's first career Winston Cup victory as well as the first for car owner Cal Wells. More importantly, it capped a successful return to racing for a driver who was once considered damaged goods.
Diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome in early 1998 following a series of hard crashes, Craven missed much of the 1998 season. He returned to racing in September of that year, only to bounce in and out of rides before landing on solid ground with Wells' operation at the beginning of this season. One of Craven's most ardent supporters has been his wife, Cathleen, who told him during that trying part of his career that, "Tough times don't last. Tough people do, and you're tough, so just carry on."
Following Craven to the line were Jarrett, Ward Burton, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton, who finished second through fifth, respectively.
The next race on the Winston Cup schedule is the EA SPORTS 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Oct. 21 at 1 p.m. EDT. NBC will provide live coverage of the event.