Stewart's Strong Run Thwarted Again Flat Tire Turns Sure Top-Five into 21st Place Finish Tony Stewart led six times for 54 laps in Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but a flat tire just...
Stewart's Strong Run Thwarted Again
Flat Tire Turns Sure Top-Five into 21st Place Finish
Tony Stewart led six times for 54 laps in Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but a flat tire just nine laps short of the finish took a sure top-five and replaced it with a 21st place finish.
Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing, appeared to have picked up right where he left of from the series' previous stop at California Speedway. There, Stewart led twice for 28 laps and seemed the only driver capable of taking the win from a dominant Greg Biffle. But on lap 214, Stewart's engine expired, relegating him to a 43rd place finish.
The unmistakable feeling of dejà vu was readily apparent at Las Vegas, for two sure top-five finishes that would've put Stewart in contention for the point lead turned into 43rd and 21st place finishes that have left Stewart 19th in points, 236 markers behind series leader Jimmie Johnson.
The Las Vegas race went sour for Stewart with roughly 80 laps to go in the 270-lap contest. It was then when Stewart was doggedly pursuing Kyle Busch for second - a pursuit that would leave Stewart frustrated with Busch.
"With 80 laps to go he's holding us up and we all have another pit stop to make," said Stewart. "Work on your car and go on. There's just an etiquette. I'm frustrated with it and I honestly think I have every right to be. There's absolutely no reason to hold a driver up when there's 80 laps to go."
"If I might have aggravated Stewart a little bit, I apologize to him for that," said Busch after the race. "If I slipped up and slid in front of him one time or whatever, it was my mistake. But all I can do is go out there and drive my race car to the best of my ability and to the best it's capable of doing for me. And that's what happened today."
Stewart continued to pursue Busch even after what should've been the final round of pit stops while under caution on lap 234, as the two drivers returned to the track with Busch in fourth and Stewart in fifth.
"I was pushing so hard to get by Kyle. We just got tight behind him and brushed the wall," said Stewart, whose contact with the turn two wall came on lap 256. "That's probably where we did the damage to the tire, but for sure it shoved the fender in. That's what made me tight and lost us all those positions. Then at the end, we cut a tire down and had to go to the back.
"I'm not blaming Kyle for that because that was after the last pit stop. You've got less than 30 laps to go, you've got to race at that point."
Jimmie Johnson scored his 20th career Nextel Cup victory and his second of the season by winning the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. Matt Kenseth finished second, while Busch, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon secured the rest of the top-five. Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle, Casey Mears and Denny Hamlin comprised the rest of the top-10.
Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammates - Hamlin and J.J. Yeley - finished 10th and 17th, respectively. Hamlin is now 16th in points while Yeley sits 21st.