STEWART, GRUBB PROVE TWO CAN EQUAL FOUR Two-Tire Stop Helps Office Depot/Old Spice Team to Fourth Point-Paying Victory of 2009 With 29 laps and one final pit stop remaining in the Price Chopper 400 presented by Kraft Foods NASCAR Sprint Cup...
STEWART, GRUBB PROVE TWO CAN EQUAL FOUR
Two-Tire Stop Helps Office Depot/Old Spice Team to Fourth Point-Paying Victory of 2009
With 29 laps and one final pit stop remaining in the Price Chopper 400 presented by Kraft Foods NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Tony Stewart and his crew chief, Darian Grubb, faced a dilemma. Two tires or four?
When the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala SS came to pit road under caution on lap 238 of the 267-lap event, Stewart and Grubb agreed they would take two tires rather than four and attempt to win the race off pit road.
The strategy worked to perfection as Stewart beat Kasey Kahne back onto the track, and then never gave up the point en route to winning the Price Chopper 400, holding off a late charge from four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon in the process.
"The good thing was we got two tires at the end there, and Darian made a great call getting two, and the guys had an awesome stop," said Stewart, who is in his first year as a driver/owner with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). "That was really what it boiled down to. We got that track position at the end, and we had the luxury of being able to pick the inside or outside lane on the restart, and I kind of debated back and forth which side I needed to be on. But I kind of struggled when I was stuck on the bottom on restarts today. So I took a gamble and went to the top and got enough of a lead on Kasey to get down to the bottom by the time we got to (turns) one and two and was able to run our line, and we got enough of a gap right off the bat that it gave me the flexibility to run my own line, run my own pace and let those guys have to worry about catching us."
Gordon, who had four fresh tires, worked his way up to second place but could never really mount a challenge on Stewart, who won by .894 of a second.
"We just kind of ran our pace," Stewart said. "It's easy, when somebody starts running you down, it's easy to over-drive your car trying to maintain a gap, and you end up making it worse on yourself. So even though I saw him getting bigger in the mirror, I didn't want to burn the tires off of it in case we got a caution and we got a green-white-checkered, so we just ran hard enough to not abuse the tires.
"It's like he could get so close and then he couldn't get any closer. When he got up there, he got tight, and he had to run pretty hard to get by Greg (Biffle), and then to run us down. So, by then, he pretty much got the good off his tires and we got the luxury to kind of, on that restart, run our own pace and take care of it and make sure we made it last the whole way."
Stewart led five times for 37 laps to score the 37th Sprint Cup victory of his career, his fourth of the season and his second at Kansas, as he also won at the 1.5-mile oval in 2006. His four wins thus far this season are the most for Stewart since he won five races in 2006 driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Stewart is now tied with 1970 Sprint Cup champion Bobby Isaac for 18th on the all-time victory list in NASCAR's top division.
"That's a stat that's really cool," Stewart said. "I've been fortunate with Joe Gibbs Racing and now Stewart-Haas Racing to drive some really good racecars over the last 11 years. I'm so proud of these guys at SHR and Office Depot and Old Spice and the U.S. Army, Burger King, Coca-Cola and Chevrolet."
The victory was especially important to Chevrolet, who clinched the 2009 Manufacturers' Championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series thanks to Stewart's win at Kansas. It is the 33rd Manufacturers' crown for Chevrolet, the most ever by any automobile manufacturer in the sport.
"To win the Manufacturers' title for Chevy by winning this race is awesome," Stewart said. "This is a proud moment. Chevrolet has been a big part of my career, and General Motors, in general, has. To be the team that wins the race today and locks down the championship for them is a huge sense of pride for us."
Biffle finished third behind Stewart and Gordon, while Juan Pablo Montoya and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five. Kahne, Mark Martin, David Reutimann, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 23 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race.
Both SHR drivers are represented in this year's Chase for the Championship. Stewart moved from fifth to fourth, 67 points behind Chase leader Martin, while SHR's Ryan Newman, who finished 22nd at Kansas, dropped two spots to ninth, 164 markers out of first.