Indianapolis: Tony Stewart race report

HOOSIER DADDY Indiana Native Tony Stewart Takes Second Indy Win After having endured 11 disappointments at Indy -- six in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and five in the IRL IndyCar Series -- before finally winning in a stock car at the famed ...

HOOSIER DADDY
Indiana Native Tony Stewart Takes Second Indy Win

After having endured 11 disappointments at Indy -- six in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and five in the IRL IndyCar Series -- before finally winning in a stock car at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2005, Tony Stewart only had to wait a year and 209 days to score his second victory in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

The Columbus, Ind.-native led seven times for a race-high 65 laps en route to the dominating win, as Stewart drove his No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet across the finish line 2.982 seconds ahead of 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner and Nextel Cup rookie Juan Pablo Montoya.

"This one I'm going to remember. It's like a dream," said Stewart, whose Allstate 400 win in 2005 lifted a weight off his shoulders and allowed him to answer the question, 'How would it feel to win at Indy?' "The first one was great, but there was so much going around it, being the first one. Both races were special. Neither of the wins outweighs the other win. To race one of my good friends, Kasey Kahne, for the first one and a very close friend, Kevin Harvick, for this one, I couldn't think of two other guys I'd rather race for the win here than that."

Stewart had the fastest car on the 2.5-mile oval, but Harvick was fast too. The two drivers engaged in a spirited battle following a restart on lap 140, and it didn't end until Stewart was able to seize the lead for good on lap 151 of the 160-lap race.

"It was just like Chicago, except we were real vulnerable on the restarts," said Stewart, alluding to his win at the previous Nextel Cup race. "Three times I went down into (turn) one and got really tight on a restart for some unknown reason. I kept trying to scrub the tires, making sure they were cleaned off. But for some reason, we'd go down in there and get tight. We were fine after that, but it let Kevin get by us.

"I was confident that we could get back to him. I really believed we could get by him again because we'd done it the run before. But we got up to him and actually dropped back away from him a little bit. I thought, 'Man, this may or may not happen.' It was just a matter of trying to get the timing right, and get a good run on him to where we could get a run down the straightaway.

"The motor was awesome. We could draft up to him and get underneath him going into (turn) three. That was my strong point. Kevin got really smart and changed how he was driving turn two and got to where I wasn't getting as big a run as I was before. So, I had to do something different. I'd been lifting earlier. He had been driving in deeper than I had. Just the differences in setups let us drive our cars different from each other.

"I tried to go in hard with him once and see what happened, and I got up to him and he got tight, I guess, in (turn) one. We got underneath him. I just squeezed him a little bit, not on purpose, but I got too close to him and ran into him in the short chute. It was a really cool, almost like a slide job, countermove, him getting back underneath me. It was a drag race down the backstretch. Whoever got through turn three was probably going to win the race at that point."

It was Stewart who emerged out front off turn three, allowing him to take his second consecutive Nextel Cup victory, a feat the nine-year Nextel Cup driver has performed seven times since entering the series as a rookie in 1999.

"For us to be able to win at Indy a second time is just the real deal," said Greg Zipadelli, the crew chief for Stewart since their debut at Daytona (Fla.) in February 1999. "He has matured so much. He drove like I can't even tell you. It was a phenomenal race today. I'm proud of him. I'm proud of this whole team. These guys back home work hard and this is the second time out with this car and we've won with it."

The new car that debuted July 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. -- Chassis No. 143 -- is now two-for-two, as The Home Depot-sponsored Joe Gibbs Racing Team took the off-weekend and turned it around to compete at Indianapolis.

"We debated about which two cars we should bring back," said Stewart, recounting a pre-Indy conversation he had with Zipadelli regarding whether to take Chassis No. 143 or another proven chassis that won three races last year and led over 630 laps. "I wanted the car that we didn't run. That's why he's the crew chief and I'm the driver. I get in the one that has my name on it and that's the one I drive that weekend."

Stewart's Indy drive bumped him up one spot to fifth in the championship point standings, where he is 452 points behind series leader Jeff Gordon. But Gordon should beware. Six times during the previous 13 times NASCAR has visited Indy, the winner has gone onto to win the championship, a feat that Stewart pulled in 2005 when he recorded his second series title.

Stewart's JGR teammates -- Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley -- finished 22nd and 36th, respectively, in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Hamlin held steady at second in points, where he's 371 markers arrears Gordon. Yeley, meanwhile, dropped two spots to fall to 21st in points.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the Aug. 5 Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing