Stewart and Co. 14th at Kansas KANSAS CITY, Kan., (Oct. 10, 2004) - Sunday's Banquet 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway may not have produced the desired outcome Tony Stewart and the rest of the ...
Stewart and Co. 14th at Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan., (Oct. 10, 2004) - Sunday's Banquet 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway may not have produced the desired outcome Tony Stewart and the rest of the #20 Home Depot Racing Team wanted, but it did yield a respectable 14th place finish on a day that spelled trouble for a handful of other championship contenders.
Stewart started 24th in the 43-car field, and despite driving a race car that started a race run too loose before ending it too tight, he worked his way into the top-10 by lap 100 of the 267-lap contest. He solidified his presence in the top-10 by moving to sixth by lap 150. And thanks to a well-timed caution, rose to as high as second when the yellow flag waved to interrupt a spate of green flag pit stops on lap 208.
The time spent in the runner-up slot was short-lived however, as crew chief Greg Zipadelli called for a two-tire pit stop with fuel on lap 210. The trip to pit road was well intentioned, in that it guaranteed the team's finish without another stop for gas. But with the prevalence of cautions, the #20's fuel tank would've probably gone the distance even without the quick, two-tire pit stop. Only a handful of drivers came down pit road with Stewart, and as a result, his second-place stead turned into 18th place when the race resumed on lap 213.
When the caution came out again for a Jimmie Johnson crash on the backstretch just a few moments after the race had gone green, Zipadelli tried to make amends. With only three cars behind Stewart on the lead lap, he brought Stewart to pit road for fresh tires, hoping that the new rubber would give his driver an edge over those driving around on slightly used tires.
It worked. Stewart put those fresh tires to the pavement in a big way, slicing his way to 13th with 20 laps to go. But the tight handling condition that seemed to always arise toward the end of a run appeared yet again in the closing laps, with four-time series champion Jeff Gordon edging Stewart for the 13th spot.
"We've still got six more races to get this done," said Stewart about his championship aspirations. "We can still do this."
While the 14th place finish disallowed any bragging rights, the solid effort was needed in light of the misfortune suffered by other championship contenders. Johnson's crash left him 32nd in the rundown and ninth in points, while a crash by fellow title contender Ryan Newman put him 33rd in the race and eighth in the point standings. Joining Stewart outside of the race's top-10 were fellow title contenders Gordon (13th), Matt Kenseth (17th) and Mark Martin (20th).
The 14th place effort allowed Stewart to maintain his sixth-place point standing, as he now sits 173 markers arrears series leader Kurt Busch.
Winning the Banquet 400 and ending a 54-race winless streak was Joe Nemechek. It was his fifth career Nextel Cup victory and his first since winning at Richmond (Va.) in May of 2003. Hot on his bumper was Ricky Rudd, whose second-place effort was his best since finishing second at New Hampshire in September of 2003. Greg Biffle followed in third, while Elliott Sadler and Jeremy Mayfield took fourth and fifth, respectively. Comprising the rest of the top-10 were Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and rookie Brendan Gaughan.
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