DEFLATED TIRES DEFLATE STEWART'S CHANCES AT MARTINSVILLE Home Depot Driver Finishes Disappointing 26th After Running in Top-10 Two deflated tires deflated Tony Stewart's chances for victory in Sunday's TUMS QuikPak 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series...
DEFLATED TIRES DEFLATE STEWART'S CHANCES AT MARTINSVILLE
Home Depot Driver Finishes Disappointing 26th After Running in Top-10
Two deflated tires deflated Tony Stewart's chances for victory in Sunday's TUMS QuikPak 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), finished a disappointing 26th. It's only the fifth time in 20 starts at the .526-mile oval that Stewart has finished outside the top-20.
After starting seventh on a grid determined by owner points since qualifying was rained out, Stewart remained in the top-10 for much of the first 360 laps. He and crew chief Greg Zipadelli tinkered with the car's handling as Stewart was looking for more grip to set the Home Depot team up for a strong finish.
Unfortunately, the racing gods did not shine on Stewart. While in eighth-place on lap 361, Stewart radioed to his crew that his right-front tire had rapidly deflated and that he would need to pit.
The unscheduled green-flag pit stop sent the No. 20 Toyota back to 25th, two laps behind the lead-lap cars.
However, all hope was not lost since it had been nearly 100 laps since most of the lead-lap cars had been to pit road as the race had been caution-free since lap 267. Had the race remained green for another 30-40 laps, there was a chance Stewart could have gotten back on the lead lap while all the cars ahead of him pitted.
Unfortunately, strike two hit the Home Depot team on lap 382 when the ninth caution of the day was put out due to debris on the race track. With Stewart in 26th, two laps down, the attention of the No. 20 team moved from possible victory to gaining as many laps back as possible and, hopefully, getting a top-20 finish.
Another deflated tire on lap 453 compounded an already tough day for the Home Depot crew as Stewart was once again forced to pit under green and he lost two additional laps.
He managed to complete only 500 of the 504 laps contested as the race was extended four laps beyond the scheduled 500-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.
Stewart's JGR teammates -- Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch -- finished fifth and 29h, respectively. Hamlin brought home his fourth top-five finish in seven Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville while Busch suffered a fate similar to Stewart's by having three right-front tires deflate and finishing seven laps down.
Jimmie Johnson won the TUMS QuikPak 500 to score his 39th career Sprint Cup victory, his sixth of the season and the fifth of his career at Martinsville. Johnson held off runner-up Dale Earnhardt, Jr., by 0.708 of a second, with Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Hamlin rounding out the top-five. Casey Mears, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex, Jr., comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 12 caution periods for 76 laps, with four drivers failing to finish the 504-lap race.
All three JGR drivers are represented in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup. Stewart continues to lead the JGR trio in points, as he dropped one position to eighth-place in the standings, where he is now 338 markers arrears series leader Johnson. Hamlin gained one position and is now 11th in the standings, 420 points out of the lead. Busch dropped three spots to 12th in points and is 445 markers behind Johnson.