SMART TWO-TIRE CALL GETS STEWART TOP-FIVE AT INDY Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Rallies to Notch Seventh Top-10 in Last Nine Races Had you told Tony Stewart that he would score a top-five finish in Sunday's Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series...
SMART TWO-TIRE CALL GETS STEWART TOP-FIVE AT INDY
Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Rallies to Notch Seventh Top-10 in Last Nine Races
Had you told Tony Stewart that he would score a top-five finish in Sunday's Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he would've thought you were crazy. After all, the driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) had struggled with his car's handling in the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday that led up to the 160-lap race.
Yet, when the checkered flag dropped on the 17th running of the Brickyard 400, there was Stewart on pit road chatting with the assembled media about his impressive fifth-place finish.
"If somebody would've said we were going to finish in the top-five, I would've told them they were crazy," said Stewart, who started 15th in the 43-car field. "I'm so proud of Darian Grubb (crew chief) and all the guys on this Old Spice/Office Depot team. We were not a top-five car last night. We were probably about a 20th-place racecar last night after Happy Hour, and to get a top-five today feels like a win. Darian stayed up late last night and was working through different simulations trying to figure out what combinations we could use to make this thing better, and the results showed it today.
"I'm glad we had a great weekend for Old Spice. This is a home race for them with Procter and Gamble being in Cincinnati. We're going to lose them at the end of the year, but I've had a great run with them for 11 years now and I'm just really appreciative of everything that Old Spice has done and everything Office Depot does for us, too. It was a good weekend for us."
The good end to the weekend came in large part to a smart, two-tire pit call by Grubb during a caution period on lap 139. Stewart had already rallied his way to fifth-place on the heels of a lightning-quick pit stop on lap 118 that vaulted him from 11th to eighth. Running up front with the leaders allowed Stewart to race in clean air, and when Grubb made the split-second call for two tires while most of the competition took four, Stewart again rocketed up the leaderboard, this time to second behind race-leader Jamie McMurray.
"The guys had great pit stops," said Stewart, who wears the dual hat of driver and owner at SHR. "The pit crew really stepped up and had two awesome pit stops at the end that were very, very critical in getting us some track position where we could at least fight for a top-five. We got some breaks there on one of the restarts that got us about three spots, so that got us the best track position we had all day. Once we got up there and got with the guys we were going to be racing with at the end -- the two tires weren't necessarily the hot ticket, but it got us some track position and we probably finished better taking that gamble than we if we would've taken four.
"Feels almost like a win to be honest. When we finished Happy Hour yesterday, I was in a doom-and-gloom mood. It's just been a hot three days and I've been dehydrated because I've been sick. I'm proud of how good I feel right now, to be honest. That's due to the Clarian Medical Center here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They've worked with me the last two nights trying to get me feeling better and because of that, it got us where we are today."
The effort nabbed Stewart his sixth top-five finish in 12 career Sprint Cup starts at Indianapolis and his fifth top-five of 2010. It was also his seventh top-10 in the last nine Sprint Cup races.
"I wish I could say we're where we need to be, but I'm proud of our organization," said Stewart, who is still winless thus far in 2010. "All of our guys at Stewart-Haas Racing who don't get to come to the racetrack on the weekend -- they've really been working hard. The engineers have been working long hours and staying afterward each day, trying to make us better, and that's all a driver and, especially as a car owner, can ask for, is the hard effort these guys are putting forth."
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished 17th after battling back from two early flat tires that had him two laps down and in 39th-place just 20 laps into the race.
McMurray went on to win the Brickyard 400, scoring his fifth career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his first at Indianapolis. McMurray also won the 2010 Daytona 500, making him just the third driver in NASCAR history to win the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season. Dale Jarrett first accomplished the feat in 1996, while Jimmie Johnson won both races in 2006.
Championship point leader Kevin Harvick finished 1.391 seconds behind race-winner McMurray, while Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and Stewart rounded out the top-five. Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Kurt Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 25 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish.
With round 20 of 36 complete, Stewart remains ninth in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He has 2,544 points, 376 markers behind series leader Harvick and 160 points ahead of 13th-place Mark Martin. Newman gained one spot and is now 15th. He has 2,299 points and is 147 points back of 12th-place Bowyer, who holds the final spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship with six races remaining before the Chase begins.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Aug. 1 Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.