Las Vegas: Tony Stewart race report

Las Vegas or Days of Thunder? Stewart Salvages Top-10 at Las Vegas in Race Evoking Images from Days of Thunder LAS VEGAS (March 13, 2005) - In a race car that looked like a used-up prop from the movie Days of Thunder, Tony Stewart drove ...

Las Vegas or Days of Thunder?
Stewart Salvages Top-10 at Las Vegas in Race Evoking Images from Days of Thunder

LAS VEGAS (March 13, 2005) - In a race car that looked like a used-up prop from the movie Days of Thunder, Tony Stewart drove his battle-scarred #20 Home Depot Chevrolet to an impressive 10th place result in Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Getting to that 10th place finish was far from easy though, as Stewart had to overcome a spin, some on-track bumping, a pit road accident and the lingering effects from all of the above to post his second top-10 of this still young Nextel Cup season.

"I think we passed 80 cars today," said Stewart, spent from making 267 laps around the 1.5-mile oval. "We got off to a good start and got ourselves in the top-13 during that first stint before the first round of pit stops. Then we got ourselves in the top-five during that second round. On the next pit stop we lost a couple of spots and then out on the race track a car spun in front of us. We slowed down to keep from hitting the car that was spinning, and then three seconds after the wreck, somebody plowed into the back of me and turned me around. It was just a first step in a sequence of bad events that kept costing us time and position.

"We came in on the next stop after we'd worked our way back up into the top-10. We followed the '0' car in and his tire carrier decided he was going to walk all the way around on pit lane to get around his tire changers and he runs into our car with the tire and knocks the tire into one of my tire carriers and it tears up our race car."

While the damage to the #20 car was significant from that lap 87 pit road accident, it paled in comparison to the pain felt by Jody Fortson, rear tire carrier for the #20 team. The 25-year-old Fortson bore the brunt of the pit road accident, as the tire being carried by the #0 crew man bounced hard off the #20 car and into Fortson's right side ribcage. Undaunted by the impact, Fortson picked up his own tire and continued the pit stop on the #20 car, succumbing to the pain only after his work was complete. The 25-year-old China Grove, N.C., native was quickly transported to the infield care center where an initial evaluation prompted further review at nearby University Medical Center. There, Fortson was diagnosed with a cracked rib before being treated and released.

As Fortson's injuries were tended to, the injuries to the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet showed up on the race track. The caved-in left front fender and lower A-pillar caused the #20 machine to go from being the class of the field to an ill-handling also-ran. Matters weren't helped any on lap 110 when Joe Nemechek's Chevrolet made contact with Stewart in turn two, crinkling the right front fender. As such, the new aerodynamic discrepancies made Stewart's Monte Carlo extremely tight. And between efforts to stay on pace and fix the damage during yellow flag caution periods, Stewart dropped to 29th.

The crew remedied the car's handling woes during a caution period that began on lap 124. In two pit stops before the race went green on lap 129, crew members fashioned a piece of sheet metal that covered the left front fender damage. With the five-inch by 10-inch curved piece of steel riveted over the crumpled section, Stewart returned to action, where his time at the back was short-lived.

Stewart put on a passing clinic, rising to 15th before a caution on lap 175. And with new tires, a chassis adjustment and a full load of fuel, Stewart continued his charge toward the front on the subsequent restart, cracking the top-10 on lap 187.

Through the top-10 Stewart went, passing Scott Riggs for ninth and then Greg Biffle for eighth - all on lap 191. And before the caution flag waved yet again, Stewart passed Jeff Gordon for seventh on lap 193. Then, with some quick pit work by the #20 team, Stewart emerged in fourth when the race restarted on lap 198.

But the fast pit stop wasn't enough to keep Stewart in the top-five, as the battered and beaten Home Depot Chevrolet no longer had the aerodynamic necessities to keep it planted to the race track. Despite constant chassis tinkering by crew chief Greg Zipadelli under caution-induced pit stops, the banged-up Home Depot ride was only fixable to a degree.

Stewart slowly dropped back, but held onto 10th with a handful of laps still remaining. Said Zipadelli over the radio once the checkered flag finally waved, "Nice work Tony - that car's been hit more times than Muhammad Ali."

The 10th place effort bumped Stewart up one spot in the championship point standings to sixth, 123 points arrears new series leader Jimmie Johnson. Johnson became the series leader by winning the UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400, which was his 15th career Nextel Cup victory in 114 starts. Finishing behind Johnson was rookie Kyle Busch while older brother Kurt Busch came home in third. Gordon and Kevin Harvick rounded-out the rest of the top-five. And comprising the remainder of the top-10 were Biffle, Casey Mears, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Stewart.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the March 20 Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race begins at 1:15 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX.


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Scott Riggs , Kyle Busch