STEWART COMES HOME EIGHTH AT HOMESTEAD Office Depot/Old Spice Driver's 17th Top-10 of 2010 Bumps Him to Seventh in Points Tony Stewart had an impressive drive in Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami ...
STEWART COMES HOME EIGHTH AT HOMESTEAD
Office Depot/Old Spice Driver's 17th Top-10 of 2010 Bumps Him to Seventh in Points
Tony Stewart had an impressive drive in Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The pilot of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) rallied from his 31st-place starting spot to finish a solid eighth. It was his 17th top-10 finish this season and his sixth top-10 in 12 career Sprint Cup starts at Homestead, and the run bumped him from ninth to seventh in the final point standings.
"We worked really hard today for an eighth-place finish," said Stewart after completing his 12th full season in the elite Sprint Cup Series. "I think it sort of mirrors our season. We worked hard all year long -- everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing did. We really had a phenomenal year last year, and we knew it would be hard to maintain that this year. Sure enough, we faced more adversity this year than we did last year, but no one ever gave up, no one ever quit. We all just kept digging. We did that all day today. We went a lap down twice, worked our way back onto the lead lap both times, and ended the day with a top-10. Nothing spectacular, but a solid result nonetheless."
Stewart and crew chief Darian Grubb eventually won the battle with their racecar, as it started the 267-lap race around the 1.5-mile oval tight in the center of the track's corners and wickedly loose whenever Stewart applied the gas off the corners.
At lap 28, Stewart was 35th -- his lowest position for the race -- yet finding the proper balance for their Office Depot/Old Spice machine was a challenge Stewart and Grubb never wavered from. With Stewart providing solid and detailed feedback as the laps clicked off the board, Grubb made adjustments to the car's handling -- some major, including a track bar adjustment during a scheduled pit stop under caution on lap 100 that sent car chief Jeff Meendering underneath the right-rear corner of the racecar.
The changes, some of which were lengthy, dropped Stewart off the lead lap on two occasions, but since his car was still fast, he remained the first car one lap down and picked up the "lucky dog" when timely cautions came out on laps 99 and 244, respectively.
Perhaps the sharpest call came on lap 247 when Grubb had Stewart pit for four news tires and no fuel. Stewart had pitted eight laps earlier, but since he earned the "lucky dog" on lap 244 and would restart on the tail-end of the lead lap anyway, Grubb used the opportunity to give his driver fresh tires and a chance at making some significant headway in the race's closing laps.
It worked. After restarting in 17th on lap 251, Stewart cracked the top-10 on lap 256 with a pass of Greg Biffle. Brad Keselowski was next in Stewart's sights, and he took ninth-place from him on lap 258. Stewart picked off Matt Kenseth for eighth a lap later and then battled with his SHR teammate Ryan Newman for seventh.
Newman proved too strong, however, and when the checkered flag dropped, the SHR duo finished seventh and eighth, respectively. It was Newman's 14th top-10 finish this season and his third top-10 result in nine career Sprint Cup starts at Homestead.
The last time both SHR cars finished in the top-10 was in October at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where Stewart won the event and Newman finished fifth.
Carl Edwards beat Jimmie Johnson by 1.608 seconds to win the Ford 400 and score the 18th victory of his Sprint Cup career, his second of the season and his second at Homestead.
Finishing third was Kevin Harvick, while Aric Almirola and A.J. Allmendinger rounded out the top-five. Kasey Kahne, Newman, Stewart, Kenseth and Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 41 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish.
Stewart represented SHR in this year's Chase for the Championship. He came into the season finale at Homestead ninth among the top-12 drivers competing for this year's title, 388 points behind Chase leader Denny Hamlin. He ended the season seventh in points, 401 markers arrears Johnson, who by virtue of his second-place finish, captured his fifth consecutive Sprint Cup championship. He now trails only Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt, who have seven titles apiece.
"He's the best that's ever been," said Stewart of Johnson's record title haul. "Five straight championships, in this era, that proves it."
Newman finished the year 15th in the standings with 4,302 points, the third-highest non-Chase driver.