STEWART'S CHANCES OF WINNING GO SOUTH IN SOUTH FLORIDA Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Leads 43 Laps, but Finishes Disappointing 22nd in Season Finale at Homestead Tony Stewart's chances of ending the 2009 season with a victory appeared quite...
STEWART'S CHANCES OF WINNING GO SOUTH IN SOUTH FLORIDA
Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Leads 43 Laps, but Finishes Disappointing 22nd in Season Finale at Homestead
Tony Stewart's chances of ending the 2009 season with a victory appeared quite good as he led twice for 43 laps early in Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
However, the driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) saw his opportunity for victory go south at the South Florida track when he became involved in two separate incidents with Juan Pablo Montoya. The result of those incidents was some crinkled sheet metal and a disappointing 22nd-place finish.
After starting fifth, Stewart remained in the top-five for the first 116 laps around the 1.5-mile oval, including two stints at the front of the 43-car field during laps 33-52 and laps 63-85.
However, while racing down the frontstretch on lap 116, Montoya's car ran into the back bumper of Stewart's Chevrolet, causing minor damage to the rear of the Office Depot/Old Spice machine. One lap later as the duo exited turn two and ran down the backstretch, the left-front of Stewart's car made contact with the right-side of Montoya's No. 42 machine, which caused Montoya to slap the SAFER Barrier on the outside retaining wall in turn three.
Stewart suffered damage to his left-front fender and was forced to pit for minor repairs before restarting 25th on lap 127. Montoya, meanwhile, had to take his car to the garage for more extensive work.
Shortly after the incident, it appeared all was not lost for Stewart and Co., as he charged his way back to 11th by lap 156. But as Stewart worked his way back toward the front, Montoya's crew worked to fix his car, and he ended up rejoining the race, and as it would turn out, reigniting his on-track skirmish with Stewart.
Montoya and Stewart made contact once again, this time exiting turn four on lap 157 when Montoya slammed into the back of Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet, sending it spinning off the corner and through the strip of grass that separates the racing surface from pit wall.
Stewart was unable to keep it off the fence, and his car suffered damage to the front splitter and left-front fender. While the Office Deport/Old Spice crew was able to make repairs, Stewart fell one lap behind the leaders and any chance he had at victory was over.
Stewart eventually earned his way back onto the lead lap via the lucky dog rule on lap 217, but his car was in no shape to crack the top-20.
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army/Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala SS and Stewart's teammate at SHR, finished 23rd.
Denny Hamlin beat Jeff Burton by 2.632 seconds to win the Ford 400 and score the eighth victory of his Sprint Cup career, his fourth of the season and his first at Homestead.
Finishing third was Kevin Harvick, while Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and A.J. Allmendinger comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 31 laps, with four drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race.
Both SHR drivers were represented in this year's Chase for the Championship. Stewart ended the year sixth in the standings, 343 points behind recently crowned champion Johnson, who won his record fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title. Newman finished the year ninth in points, 477 behind Johnson.
The 2010 Sprint Cup season kicks off Feb. 5-14 with the traditional Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The 52nd Daytona 500, the first point-paying race of the season, is scheduled for Feb. 14 and will be broadcast live on FOX, MRN Radio and SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.