Another Race, Another Top-10 for Stewart Home Depot Chevrolet Driver Finishes Eighth at Phoenix AVONDALE, Ariz., (Nov. 7, 2004) - For the second straight week NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Tony Stewart fought his way to a solid top-10 finish.
Another Race, Another Top-10 for Stewart
Home Depot Chevrolet Driver Finishes Eighth at Phoenix
AVONDALE, Ariz., (Nov. 7, 2004) - For the second straight week NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Tony Stewart fought his way to a solid top-10 finish. On the heels of his ninth-place effort a week ago at Atlanta, Stewart drove his #20 Home Depot Chevrolet to an eighth-place finish in Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500k at Phoenix International Raceway.
"That's two weeks in a row where we've worked and worked and worked to get the car better as the day went," said Stewart, who started the race in sixth but fell to as low as 21st before his late-race rally. "Today wasn't good enough, but we got better as the day went and got some breaks there at the end that got us back in the top-10 after we got a little out of sequence on our pit stops."
Stewart fell out of the top-10 following a lap 159 restart. On the preceding caution, many of those behind Stewart opted to pit, while Stewart - who was fourth at the time - opted to stay out and maintain track position. Those who pitted eventually caught Stewart thanks to the speed gained from their fresher tires.
The #20 team's pit strategy was out of sequence with the rest of the leaders, but some well-timed cautions allowed them to get back in sync with the rest of the field when the race began anew on lap 293. Stewart was 15th, but with the same fresh tires as the leaders, broke back into the top-10 with just 10 laps to go.
Stewart picked off Kurt Busch for ninth with just eight laps remaining and then set his sights on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte. He had to wait to get that spot though, as NASCAR officials red-flagged the race to clean up the debris from Robby Gordon's blown engine. A green-white-checker finish ensued - extending the race from its scheduled 312-lap distance to 315 laps - with Stewart nipping Labonte for eighth on the last lap.
"It's not the kind of finish that we wanted, but that's why we've been champions in the past," said Stewart. "We expect more out of ourselves than what we had today."
However high their standards, Stewart and Co. have two more races to better their current point standing. They remain sixth in points heading into the penultimate race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway - the Nov. 14 Mountain Dew Southern 500.
Winning the Checker Auto Parts 500k for the second straight year was Dale Earnhardt Jr. His 15th career Nextel Cup victory and his sixth of the season allowed him to gain two spots in the championship point standings. He is now third, 47 points arrears series leader Kurt Busch. Ryan Newman finished second, while Jeff Gordon took third. Gordon's strong finish helped him in the points too, as he gained one position to secure the runner-up slot, just 41 points behind Busch. Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne rounded-out the rest of the top-five. Comprising the remainder of the top-10 were Jimmie Johnson, Rusty Wallace, Stewart, Labonte and Busch.
Live coverage of the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington begins at 1:30 p.m. EST on NBC.