Stewart Snares Second at Michigan BROOKLYN, Mich., (June 19, 2005) - Tony Stewart equaled his best result of the year by finishing second in Sunday's Batman Begins 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. But ...
Stewart Snares Second at Michigan
BROOKLYN, Mich., (June 19, 2005) - Tony Stewart equaled his best result of the year by finishing second in Sunday's Batman Begins 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. But after leading four times for a race-high 97 laps, second-place was little consolation for a driver used to winning.
"It was an awesome run for the Joe Gibbs Racing Team, it's just that The Home Depot Monte Carlo came up short today," said Stewart, a winner at Michigan back in June of 2000. "But the good thing was that it wasn't a Roush car or a Hendrick car that dominated the whole day. They may have got us at the end, but we held our own today."
Cars fielded by Roush Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have dominated this season, as the combined nine-car team - five for Roush and four for Hendrick - had won 12 of the 14 races entering round number 15 of the 36-race schedule at Michigan.
The Roush juggernaut rolled on at Michigan, with Greg Biffle picking up his fifth win of the season - two more than any other driver. He finished 1.675 seconds ahead of the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet, with Stewart the only non-Roush driver amongst the top-five. Biffle's Roush Racing teammates took third, fourth and fifth via Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards.
"I guess we need to figure out how to lead the right lap," said Stewart, who qualified third and led laps 8-39, 66-87, 98-129 and 159-169. "We had a really good car all day, and it's like, what do we have to do to get to victory lane this season?"
Stewart appeared ready to get that first win of the year and the 20th of his career when he made his final pit stop while under caution on lap 170.
Biffle, Kenseth, Edwards and fellow Roush pilot Kurt Busch all stayed out, hoping the four fresh tires they got while under caution 12 laps earlier would be enough to hold off those with new tires in what would be a 27-lap dash to the finish.
Stewart restarted in eighth and made quick use of his new tires, passing Elliott Sadler and Michael Waltrip for sixth on lap 174. And on the next circuit of the 200-lap race, Stewart passed Joe Nemechek and Busch for fourth. On lap 177, Stewart nipped Edwards for third.
With 20 laps to go, crew chief Greg Zipadelli radioed Stewart, "You're P-3, nice and smooth."
Stewart obliged, steadily gaining on second-place Kenseth. With three laps to go, Stewart had him, but by then Biffle was long gone with a straightaway lead.
"I never would've imagined that we couldn't have gotten to the front with 12-lap fresher tires, but it just didn't happen today," said Stewart. "I don't know if that set was a little different or what. I just couldn't get to those guys very quick, and at the end Matt's car fell off. His tires finally went away and we were able to get to him. I probably just overdrove the car trying to get to the lead again.
"But all in all it was a good day for The Home Depot and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. Every week we've been either destroying a car or tearing a car up and everybody at the shop has had to work really hard to get everything put back together. I'm glad we came home without a scratch. Bobby's (Labonte, teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing) car didn't have a scratch on it and I don't think Jason's (Leffler, teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing) car had a scratch on it either. Hopefully, everybody will have a chance to make some progress and not have to play catch-up this week. I'm really proud of everybody at the shop as hard as they've been working all year to get us caught up. We're just working to get that first win."
While Stewart and Co. look for that first win, they can already see the benefits earned from their runner-up finish at Michigan. Stewart jumped four spots in the championship point standings to sixth, 311 points arrears series leader Jimmie Johnson.
"It was a good points day," said Stewart. "It's like Zippy said, we've got to crawl before we walk, walk before we jog and jog before we run."
"They (Roush and Hendrick) have been dominant and we've been hit or miss," added Zipadelli. "And when we've run halfway decent, we haven't closed the deal. Today should be a big confidence booster to everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. Everybody did a good job today. Everybody did what they were supposed to do. Tony stayed in the game all day and our pit stops were good. We've done a lot of things in the past four or five weeks to take us out of contention of having a good finish. Today we didn't.
"What we did here today was significantly different than what we've done in the past. If we can start applying it at other places, I think we'll be in a lot better shape."
The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the June 26 Dodge/SaveMart 350k at the Infineon Raceway road course in Sonoma, Calif. The race begins at 3:35 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.