Stewart Seventh at Richmond HENRICO COUNTY, Va., (Sept. 9, 2001) - Tony Stewart overcame a 33rd place starting position, numerous caution periods and seemingly immovable lapped traffic to post a strong seventh-place finish in Saturday night's ...
Stewart Seventh at Richmond
HENRICO COUNTY, Va., (Sept. 9, 2001) - Tony Stewart overcame a 33rd place starting position, numerous caution periods and seemingly immovable lapped traffic to post a strong seventh-place finish in Saturday night's Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Still, the driver of The Home Depot Pontiac was disappointed in his run, despite the fact that he made up 26 spots en route to his 14th top-10 finish of the season.
In less than 100 laps, Stewart had worked his way into the top-10. By lap 221, he was in the top-five. But moving beyond fifth-place proved to be a huge obstacle, as those in front of Stewart proved to be strong.
The cars of Rusty Wallace, Ricky Rudd, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were stout all night, and Jimmy Spencer, Ward Burton, Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte nipped on their heels as they consistently ran in the top-10.
With those drivers being the main players, Stewart tried his best to make his way toward the lead.
On lap 297 he passed Harvick for fourth, then whipped past Earnhardt Jr. for third. A battle for second waged with Rudd between laps 334 and 336, but Rudd eventually won out.
With Stewart in third, the team made their final pit stop of the night while under caution on lap 345. The stop was decent, but other teams proved better. Harvick and Earnhardt Jr. emerged from the pits ahead of Stewart, dropping The Home Depot pilot to fifth.
When the race restarted on lap 354, Jarrett made a run on Stewart. The two ran side by side for a handful of laps before lapped traffic blocked Stewart. Jarrett slipped by to take the fifth spot, and Stewart quickly filled in at sixth.
But Stewart would slip further back on lap 361 when the lapped car of Kurt Busch slapped the frontstretch wall directly in front of the #20 machine. Forced to the hit the brakes, Labonte scooted by, followed closely by Jeff Burton.
The caution waved, the smoke cleared and a frustrated Stewart was now in eighth-place with less than 40 laps remaining.
The Home Depot driver got past Burton for seventh on lap 379, but it was of little consolation when the checkered flag waved.
"We got knocked around like a pinball all night," said Stewart. "That's what's going to happen, I guess."
Crew chief Greg Zipadelli offered some more insight.
"We had a better car than seventh. We just didn't get the breaks we needed at the end. Our last pit stop wasn't what it needed to be. The '97' (Kurt Busch) got in the wall and Tony had to get off the throttle. A couple of cars got by and there just wasn't enough time to get back.
"But overall, everybody did a good job. We got behind in qualifying and did a good job in getting to the front tonight. We just didn't do as good a job as we needed to once we got there."
Rudd proved to do the best job of staying up front, as he held off Harvick to score his second victory of the 2001 season. It was Rudd's 22nd career win and his fifth short track triumph.
Harvick's second place run was his 12th top-10 finish in 2001, but his first at Richmond. Earnhardt Jr. was third, followed by Jarrett in fourth. Fifth went to Wallace.
The point standings, while not exactly jumbled, did change a bit as a result of Saturday night's race. Jeff Gordon still leads, but his margin over second-place Rudd was cut down to 222 points after a crash in the early going relegated him to a 36th place finish. Jarrett and Stewart both moved up one spot to third and fourth, respectively, as a result of transmission woes suffered by Sterling Marlin. Marlin, who had been third in points heading into the race, dropped two spots to fifth. Stewart's lead over Marlin is 54 points, while the distance between Stewart and Jarrett is just 19 points.
The next race on the Winston Cup calendar is the New Hampshire 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon. The 25th race on the 34-race Winston Cup schedule takes place Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. EDT with NBC providing live coverage of the event.