A typical Run for Stewart at Richmond Three-Time Richmond Race Winner Finishes 19th in Chevy Rock & Roll 400 HENRICO COUNTY, Va., (Sept. 11, 2004) - With three wins, seven top-10s and a total of 621 laps led in 12 career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup...
A typical Run for Stewart at Richmond
Three-Time Richmond Race Winner Finishes 19th in Chevy Rock & Roll 400
HENRICO COUNTY, Va., (Sept. 11, 2004) - With three wins, seven top-10s and a total of 621 laps led in 12 career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway, the .750-mile oval has arguably become Tony Stewart's best race track.
But in Saturday night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400, it sure didn't seem that way. Stewart drove his #20 Home Depot Chevrolet to a 19th place finish in the 400-lap race, one lap down to race winner Jeremy Mayfield.
"We're missing something in our program, and I don't know what it is," said Stewart, who started 15th. "We've been testing a lot. We went to Milwaukee just recently. We're trying to find what the variable is in the equation we need. We've got a great group of guys at Joe Gibbs Racing and everyone on The Home Depot team. They're going to work as hard as they can to figure out what it is we need to get us running again."
As in the series' previous race at California Speedway, Stewart battled an ill-handling race car. It was tight from the start, and it became only tighter as the laps wore on. On each pit stop major adjustments were made. Track bar, wedge, air pressure adjustments - none were off-limits. Yet despite the constant tinkering by crew chief Greg Zipadelli, the #20 machine would not cut through the corners.
But thanks to a tenacious drive and the attrition of those ahead of him, Stewart entered the top-10 following a restart on lap 191. He stayed there until he had to pit during a run of green flag pit stops on lap 278. A round of wedge was removed from the left rear corner while the air pressure in the four fresh Goodyears was altered. Stewart motored out of the pits quickly, ready to assume his top-10 stead once the cycle of green flag stops concluded.
But when Jimmy Spencer spun in turn two to bring out another caution on lap 293, Stewart's drive back into the top-10 was thwarted. Eighteen other cars ahead of Stewart hadn't yet pitted, and the caution that was Stewart's downfall became their windfall. They pitted without fear of losing track position, which meant Stewart restarted in 21st when the race went green on lap 299.
From there to the finish the race stayed green. Stewart's last pit stop gave him all the fuel he needed to go the distance, which wasn't the case for Matt Kenseth, who ran out on lap 380. That allowed Stewart to pick up a spot, giving him his 19th place finish when the checkered flag waved.
As mentioned earlier, Mayfield took the win, but in ninth-inning, bases loaded, home run style. Mayfield came into Richmond - the final race before the cutoff to make the new-for-2004 Chase for the Championship - mired at 14th in the standings. He needed to win - and win big - in order to climb into the top-10 and compete for this year's championship. He did just that by leading five times for 151 laps - the most of any driver - to win and earn the most points possible, 190. He moved up five spots to ninth in the championship point standings and became just as legitimate a title contender as any of the other nine drivers in the top-10. With all of their point tallies having been adjusted to separate each of them in five-point increments, their respective shots at earning a championship in the season's last 10 races are incredibly equal.
Finishing behind Mayfield in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 was Earnhardt, while Gordon, Mike Bliss and Martin rounded-out the top-five. Rookie Carl Edwards, Mike Wallace, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and Rusty Wallace comprised the rest of the top-10.
The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the Sept. 19 Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon. Live coverage by TNT begins at 1 p.m. EDT.