Phoenix: Tony Stewart race report

STEADY RUN AT PHOENIX NETS TOP-15 FOR STEWART Home Depot Driver Also Remains Steady Among Top-10 in Points There was little flash for Tony Stewart in Saturday night's Subway Fresh Fit 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix ...

STEADY RUN AT PHOENIX NETS TOP-15 FOR STEWART
Home Depot Driver Also Remains Steady Among Top-10 in Points

There was little flash for Tony Stewart in Saturday night's Subway Fresh Fit 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. The driver of the No. 20 Subway/Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) started the 312-lap race 12th, flirted with the top-10 for much of the event, and wound up 14th.

It wasn't a bad race, but not an outstanding one either. It was, however, a solid effort by the entire No. 20 team that netted the outfit's seventh top-15 finish in the eight races held this season.

"We weren't terrible, we just lost it when we pitted and had to kind of go to the back," said crew chief Greg Zipadelli, referring to the team's pit stop on lap 116 when they were caught on pit road when the caution flag flew for a Joe Nemecheck spin in turn one. Stewart had been running fourth but left the pits in 15th. "Thankfully, we didn't lose a lot, because a lot of other cars went a lap down. But then we just couldn't get it back. We couldn't ever get our car to get up there and go. We needed long runs, because it seemed like we were ok then.

"Track position has become such an important thing. You get behind cars, the slower you go. Even if you have half-decent car, it's hard to get by."

Stewart dropped two spots to seventh in the championship point standings, 137 markers behind series leader Jeff Burton.

Stewart's JGR teammates -- Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch -- finished third and 10th, respectively, in the Subway Fresh Fit 500k.

Busch remains the lead JGR driver in the championship point race, as his 10th-place finish moved him up one spot to second in the standings, 80 points arrears Burton. Hamlin's third-place effort brought him up one position to sixth, 137 points back of Burton. While Hamlin's point tally matches Stewart's, Hamlin wins the tiebreaker thanks to his win two races ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson gambled on fuel and won the Subway Fresh Fit 500k. It was his 34th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his second consecutive triumph at Phoenix, as he won in his previous visit to Phoenix last November.

Clint Bowyer, Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Mark Martin rounded out the top-five. Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Greg Biffle and Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were eight caution periods for 42 laps, with three drivers failing to finish the race.

The Sprint Cup Series takes a rare weekend off before heading to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for the April 27 Aaron's 499. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 1 p.m. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.

-credit: jgr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin