STEWART FUELS WAY TO THIRD AT POCONO Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Only One Point Away From Cracking Top-12 The Poconos aren't exactly gambling meccas, but you wouldn't know it by watching Tony Stewart race around the 2.5-mile triangle that is...
STEWART FUELS WAY TO THIRD AT POCONO
Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Only One Point Away From Cracking Top-12
The Poconos aren't exactly gambling meccas, but you wouldn't know it by watching Tony Stewart race around the 2.5-mile triangle that is Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. That's because Stewart and crew chief Darian Grubb have rolled the dice on their fuel mileage in back-to-back June visits to Pocono and come away with a win and a third-place finish, the latter of which was earned in Sunday's Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
"We'll take that finish," said Stewart, who started the race in sixth but fought an ill-handling racecar for much of the event, which had him mired in the teens. "Not a beautiful day by any means, but we got where we needed to in the end. We got some track position and we had a pretty good car when we got there."
Getting there came via a smart and gutsy call by Grubb, who while the race was under caution on lap 160, topped off the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala with just enough fuel to go the distance. No matter what anyone else did, Stewart was going to stay out and earn valuable track position while those ahead of him with thirstier racecars pitted for fuel later in the scheduled 200-lap race.
The strategy worked to near perfection. When the race restarted on lap 166, Stewart was in 16th. When another caution came out three laps later, many of those in front of Stewart headed to pit road for enough gas to get them to the finish. Stewart rose to second behind Kurt Busch, and as the field ambled around the vast yet quirky circuit while under caution, it bought Stewart better fuel mileage and enough cushion in case the race went into overtime with a green-white-checkered finish.
"There's days like today where you're not proud of how you got there, but you take it anyway because you know for every one you get like this, there's one that gets robbed from you the same way," said Stewart.
The two-time Sprint Cup champion appeared to have second-place in hand, but just as the field was coming to take the final lap, Kevin Harvick spun Joey Logano in turn three to bring out the race's final caution and set up a green-white-checkered finish.
It was not the outcome Stewart and Co., wanted to see, for now they'd have to stretch their fuel mileage even further and work hard to hold off any challenges for second.
When the green flag dropped for the final time, Stewart pursued leader Denny Hamlin hard, knowing that he had to go all-out for Kyle Busch was going to do the same behind him for second. While Stewart made Hamlin earn it, Hamlin nonetheless pulled away. Busch, meanwhile, snuck past Stewart, and that's how they finished when the checkered flag dropped; Hamlin first, Busch second, Stewart third.
"I wish we had been a top-three car all day, but you take them any way you can get them," said Stewart after scoring his eighth top-five and 17th top-10 finish at Pocono, and his second top-five and fifth top-10 finish this season. "We had a decent car, and a good enough car to stay up there and run with those guys. We just didn't stay up there on that green-white-checkered run, but we were up there for 30-plus laps, so we had a good enough car when we got up front. We just couldn't get there all day."
Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet, finished 14th after receiving damage in a multi-car accident on the last lap. It was his ninth top-15 result in 2010.
Hamlin's win in the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 was his 12th career Sprint Cup victory, his fourth of the season and his fourth at Pocono. Finishing fourth behind Busch and Stewart was Harvick, while Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer and A.J. Allmendinger comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 27 laps, with 13 drivers failing to finish the 204-lap race, which was extended four laps beyond its originally scheduled distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.
With round 14 of 36 complete, Stewart is 13th in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He gained three spots and now has 1,685 points. He is 378 markers behind series leader Harvick and just one point behind 12th-place Bowyer, who currently holds the final spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship with 12 races remaining before the Chase begins. Newman lost two positions to drop to 14th in the standings. He has 1,668 points and is 395 points back of series leader Harvick, but only 18 points out of 12th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the June 13 Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.