Second Straight Top-Three Boosts Stewart to Fifth in Points Home Depot Driver Comes from 33rd to Third at Michigan Tony Stewart drove his No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet from 33rd to third in Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series...
Second Straight Top-Three Boosts Stewart to Fifth in Points
Home Depot Driver Comes from 33rd to Third at Michigan
Tony Stewart drove his No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet from 33rd to third in Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. It was Stewart's second straight podium finish, as he placed second last Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.).
The top-10 effort - Stewart's fourth straight and 13th of the season - bumped the two-time and reigning Nextel Cup champion up two spots in the series point standings to fifth, 11 points behind fourth-place Mark Martin and 406 markers arrears series leader Jimmie Johnson.
"It was pretty uneventful," said Stewart, despite advancing 30 positions in the 200-lap race, the most of any driver. "We had a really tight car at the beginning, but we kept working with it and kept making adjustments. We just battled our way through.
"The pit strategy at the beginning of the race really separated a bunch of people to where we kind of got two different groups going. With teams coming to pit road at different times, it helped us a lot with track position, so it wasn't like we had to pass 33 cars on the race track. We just kept working on our car and gaining spots every run."
As the varying pit strategies helped Stewart's cause, so too did the fast race car provided to him by Joe Gibbs Racing. The No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet proved strong, cracking the top-10 by lap 52.
But even with raw horsepower propelling Stewart to the front, not all the power was being put to the pavement.
"I'm tight in the center (of the corner) and back to the gas," was a familiar radio transmission from Stewart.
Crew chief Greg Zipadelli heard his driver loud and clear, and on each of the team's seven pit stops, he tinkered with the car's setup to better suit Stewart's driving style.
By the end of the race, Stewart's car was better than all but three of the 42 other teams competing.
Veteran drivers Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon appeared to be the class of the field, but nipping at their heels was rookie driver Clint Bowyer.
Bowyer was third with less than 10 laps remaining and had a healthy lead over Stewart, who seemed destined to finish fourth. But three laps short of the finish, Bowyer's engine expired, relegating him to an undeserved 33rd place result. Stewart inherited third while Kenseth and Gordon finished 1-2.
"We did everything we could to try to win," said Stewart. "Matt had an awesome car. We didn't have anything for Matt or Jeff. When Jeff got up to me, there was no way I was going to hold him up. He was so fast. There was no doubt he was going to get by, so there wasn't any point in holding him up any longer.
"I felt bad for Clint Bowyer. He had a good day going and lost a motor there at the end. He was pretty strong too."
Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammates - Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley - finished ninth and 37th, respectively. Hamlin's finish was his 11th top-10 of the year and his fifth straight. Yeley's disappointing outing was due to a cut right rear tire that sent him into the turn three wall on lap 159.
Hamlin and Yeley now sit eighth and 28th, respectively, in points. Hamlin maintained his point standing while Yeley dropped one spot.
Kenseth's win was the 13th of his Nextel Cup career and his third this season. Finishing behind Gordon and Stewart were Kasey Kahne and Martin, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Reed Sorenson, Hamlin and Elliott Sadler made up the rest of the top-10.