Pocono: Tony Stewart race report

Aside from rookie driver Carl Edwards picking up his second career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victory, the story from Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway was tires. Numerous tire failures were experienced by almost half of the 43-car field, and...

Aside from rookie driver Carl Edwards picking up his second career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victory, the story from Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway was tires.

Numerous tire failures were experienced by almost half of the 43-car field, and Home Depot Chevrolet driver Tony Stewart was a case in point. Three flat tires in the second half of the 201-lap race conspired for a 29th place finish, dropping Stewart five spots in the championship points standings to 10th.

"We ran over 100 laps and didn't have a left front flat, and then all of the sudden we had two of them," said crew chief Greg Zipadelli. "I'm kind of puzzled as to why. The first one we had was because something hit the fender brace and that cut the tire. Then the second one just went down by itself. And the third tire was a left rear flat and it had a big cut in it. We ran something over when the '12' car hit the wall."

The '12' car was Ryan Newman, whose impact with the turn one wall on lap 196 prompted a green-white-checkered finish. The resulting overtime extended the race distance to 201 laps, one lap past its originally scheduled ending.

For Stewart and Co., it prolonged an already long day. Another trip to pit road had to be made to change the left rear tire. Already three laps down with severe left side body damage from the shredded tires having torn up the surrounding sheet metal, Stewart's day was, for all intents and purposes, over. Nonetheless, three more circuits around the vast 2.5-mile triangle had to be made before the day could officially, and mercifully, end.

"Some people ran fast all day and didn't have any (tire) problems," said Zipadelli. "If half the field can do it and half the field can't, I guess the half of the field that didn't do it - we didn't do our job well enough.

"But our tire wear looked really good. And we weren't that low on left side tire pressure. We didn't feel like we were over-aggressive on camber. We didn't feel like we were over-aggressive on the shock setup.

"But I know there were a lot of people who continuously had left front flats. It's frustrating, for Goodyear's sake and for everybody else's. This isn't something that anybody wants. And some people had problems and some didn't. I guess there is a fix out there because a lot of people didn't have a problem."

There was speculation that the rumble strips located along the inside of the track's corners contributed to the excessive left front tire wear some teams experienced, as drivers who hugged the corner too closely abused the left front tire by running over the purposely rough surface.

"I told him (Stewart) not to hit the rumble strips and he said he stayed off of it the whole time," said Zipadelli. "So I don't know why we had the problems we did. But we had them. That's just the way it is."

Even with 14 races on the 36-race Nextel Cup schedule now complete, there are 12 races still remaining before the Chase for the Championship cutoff with the conclusion of the Sept. 10 event at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

As far as the #20 Home Depot Racing Team is concerned, the next three months will provide numerous opportunities to solidify their standing within the top-10, allowing the 2002 series champions to contend for a second series title.

Amongst those who will be vying for this year's championship will be the 25-year-old Edwards. A rookie seemingly in name only, his second win of the season brought him to fourth in the championship standings, a gain of five positions.

Further championing the youth movement was 21-year-old Brian Vickers and 20-year-old Kyle Busch. The two drivers finished second and fourth, respectively, as veteran pilot Joe Nemechek separated the two via his third-place result.

Pole-sitter Michael Waltrip rounded-out the top-five, while the remainder of the top-10 consisted of point leader Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Jamie McMurray.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the June 19 Batman Begins 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The race begins at 2:10 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.

-jgr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Joe Nemechek , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin