RAINFALL FELLS STEWART AGAIN AT NEW HAMPSHIRE Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Settles for Fifth in Rain-Shortened Race Tony Stewart saw another potential NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon get washed away...
RAINFALL FELLS STEWART AGAIN AT NEW HAMPSHIRE
Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Settles for Fifth in Rain-Shortened Race
Tony Stewart saw another potential NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon get washed away when rain cut short the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 for a second straight year.
The driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) led once for 40 laps in Sunday's race and appeared ready to score his third Sprint Cup win at New Hampshire. Instead, Stewart had to settle for his 11th top-five finish in 21 career starts at the 1.058-mile oval when rain cut the race 28 laps short of its scheduled 301-lap distance.
It was an eerily similar outcome, for in last year's Lenox Industrial Tools 301, Stewart led twice for a race-high 132 laps, but was caught outside the top-10 as other teams gambled that they'd have enough fuel to go the distance if rain ended the race prematurely. And when rain did just that -- halting the event 17 laps from its advertised length -- Stewart had to settle for 13th.
In last year's race, Kurt Busch emerged the victor. In this year's race, rookie Joe Logano -- who took over Stewart's former No. 20 ride with Joe Gibbs Racing -- won to become the youngest winner in Sprint Cup history at 19 years, one month and four days.
"I'm happy for Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, crew chief, No. 20 car) and Joey and all the guys on that team," said Stewart, who spent 10 years wheeling the No. 20 car before becoming a driver/owner with SHR in 2009. "You take 'em any way you can get 'em. That's as much as a strategy as shocks and springs and everything else. They still had to work to get themselves in that position, so they did a good job.
"It's like I told Joey, I said 10 years down the road, nobody's ever going to know how this win came, but the thing is, they still had to earn it. They did a good job strategy-wise. For them, it makes up for the one we lost here last year because of rain. I'm happy with our run, but proud for those guys too."
While not a win, Stewart's run was strong nonetheless. The fifth-place effort marked his ninth top-five of the season, and it gave him a series-leading 13 top-10s 17 races into the 36-race schedule.
"I'm really proud of our guys," Stewart said. "We were just a little bit off, but we had sparks of brilliance during the day where we were really decent. So, we can't be too disappointed with that."
Stewart's teammate at SHR, Ryan Newman, finished three laps down in 29th after dealing with a myriad of problems. The driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation/U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala SS was caught up in a multi-car incident on lap 174 that damaged his left front fender, and just laps later, he was pushed into the turn two wall, damaging the car's right side. The team's pit stop to fix the damage put Newman on a different fuel strategy than his counterparts, and as rain closed in, Newman took the lead. He led 17 laps, but the strategy failed as he ran out of fuel on lap 264 and was forced to give up the lead to Logano. Newman's car stalled after his final pit stop, and his crew had to push it down the length of pit road before it finally re-fired.
Stewart remains atop the championship standings with a 69-point lead over his nearest pursuer, Jeff Gordon. Newman dropped one spot to seventh in the standings, 397 points out of first.
Gordon finished second to cut 15 points from Stewart's lead. Kurt Busch followed in third, while David Reutimann and Stewart rounded out the top-five. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Sam Hornish Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 11 caution periods for 47 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish the race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the July 4 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.