Stewart Secures Best Finish For Shr At Martinsville; Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Nabs First Top-Three Result as Driver/Owner Tony Stewart scored Stewart-Haas Racing's first top-10 finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) ...
Stewart Secures Best Finish For Shr At Martinsville; Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Nabs First Top-Three Result as Driver/Owner
Tony Stewart scored Stewart-Haas Racing's first top-10 finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway with a solid eighth-place effort. It took just five more races for the driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala SS to score the team's first top-three result, as Stewart brought home a strong third-place finish in Sunday's Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
It marked Stewart's fourth top-10 finish just six races into the 2009 season -- his 11th year in Sprint Cup but first as a driver/owner with Stewart-Haas Racing.
"I'm real proud of the guys on this Old Spice/Office Depot team," said Stewart, who now has eight top-five finishes in 21 career Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville. "We had a good car all day long. I just don't think we had enough to get by Denny (Hamlin) or Jimmie (Johnson)."
Johnson, the three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion, ended up beating Hamlin by .774 of a second to win the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500. But Stewart made his presence known from the onset of the 500-lap race, and it began when he started seventh after the field was set by owner points after Friday's qualifying session was canceled due to rain.
Throughout the three-and-a-half-hour race, Stewart never left the top-10. He kept Johnson, Hamlin and Jeff Gordon honest, who combined led 485 laps. Stewart lurked while never leading a lap.
"We struggled in one part of the corner to get it to rotate right past the center," said Stewart, who completed just his sixth race with Darian Grubb as his crew chief -- only the second crew chief Stewart has ever worked with in Sprint Cup. "That was pretty much what we fought two-thirds of Friday's practice, and then that's what we fought the majority of the day today. I could see Denny, Jeff and Jimmie's cars were really good in that area. That's something that I know you've got to be good at.
"I felt like Darian made good calls. There were times during the race he was making changes that I questioned, but they were better and made the car work. He's really good. The thing is, he's very sure of himself. He's very sure of his decisions. Jimmie and Denny both were a little bit better at the end of the race than we were. I'm not sure if I got ahead of them that I was going to be able to hold it. But we had a solid top-five car for sure."
Stewart's teammate, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala SS, finished sixth to mark the first time in Stewart-Haas Racing's brief history that both of its drivers finished in the top-10.
"We had a good day today. I'm happy for the Old Spice/Office Depot guys and I'm really happy for Ryan and the U.S. Army guys," said Stewart as he proudly wore his owner hat. "I don't know that it's really gelling, because we've just been like this from day one. It's just kind of figuring things out. Ryan's learning a new package, I'm learning a new package, and it's learning what each of us wants.
"It's coming. It just takes time. It's like we say every Monday in our competition meeting. We've just got to build a database first. Once we get that established, then I think the second time we come around, we're going to be a little better yet."
Stewart continues to lead the Stewart-Haas Racing driver lineup in the championship point race, as his third-place finish kept him seventh in the standings after round six of 36. Newman made a big gain with his sixth-place run, vaulting nine spots to 18th in the standings. Stewart is 161 markers arrears series leader Gordon while Newman is 334 points out of first.
There were 12 caution periods for 66 laps, with just four drivers failing to finish the race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the April 5 Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.