Pocono: Tony Stewart race report

No Picnic in Pocono Transmission Trouble Ends Top-10 Run for Stewart LONG POND, Pa., (June 13, 2004) - A faulty transmission in Sunday's Pocono 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway ended Tony Stewart's bid for a fourth straight ...

No Picnic in Pocono
Transmission Trouble Ends Top-10 Run for Stewart

LONG POND, Pa., (June 13, 2004) - A faulty transmission in Sunday's Pocono 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway ended Tony Stewart's bid for a fourth straight top-10 finish, as the driver of the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet was solidly in the top-10 before going behind the wall on lap 156 to make repairs. Stewart still managed to finish the race to make it his 30th without a DNF (Did Not Finish), but he was six laps down in the 27th spot when the checkered flag fell.

Race number 14 on the 36-race Nextel Cup schedule began much better than it ended for Stewart, as the defending Pocono 500 winner started the 200-lap contest from eighth. He quickly moved into the top-five just 22 laps in, but a lack of forward bite as the race wore on kept Stewart just a tick off the leader's pace. And while there were a handful of seemingly dominant cars, a solid top-10 effort was certainly in the offing.

But the beginning of the end came on lap 141. There, Stewart radioed to crew chief Greg Zipadelli that there was something amiss with the transmission. Zipadelli radioed back to Stewart to keep digging while he and the crew quickly began weighing their options. They decided to keep the #20 machine on the track, hoping the problem could be fixed during the next round of pit stops.

But when the yellow caution flag waived on lap 156 courtesy of Ricky Craven's blown engine, Zipadelli and crew knew that the fix was far from simple. After adding four tires and fuel, The Home Depot Chevrolet lurched out of the pit box leaving behind a puddle of fluid. At one glance, Zipadelli knew the culprit was a blown transmission and that immediate attention was needed.

On the very next lap Stewart brought the car to pit road and then behind the wall where crew members could go to work. Ten minutes later Stewart was back on the race track with a new transmission. Thanks to some quick hands and the lengthy caution period, Stewart returned the 2.5 mile oval in 32nd when the race restarted on lap 162, albeit six laps down.

With less than 40 laps remaining, all Stewart could do was drive his car home and hope to capitalize on the misfortune of others. But his day still had some excitement left in it, as Stewart spun his Chevy off turn one on lap 177. No contact was made, and after catching his breath and making a stop for four fresh tires, Stewart continued on his way.

Thanks to another caution period on lap 197 for oil on the race track, that way resulted in a 27th place finish with the race ending under yellow. It dropped Stewart one spot in the championship point standings to fifth, 259 markers arrears series leader Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Winning the Pocono 500 was Jimmie Johnson, who scored his third victory of the season and the ninth of his career. The win allowed him to catch up to Earnhardt in the points, as just 58 points now separate second-place Johnson.

Rounding out the top-five were Jeremy Mayfield, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch, while Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Robby Gordon, Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears finished out the top-10.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the June 20 DHL 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Live coverage by FOX begins at 1:30 p.m. EDT.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray