The Chase Is On Stewart Finishes Seventh at Richmond, Starts First in Chase HENRICO COUNTY, Va., (Sept. 10, 2005) - Tony Stewart, driver of the ...
The Chase Is On
Stewart Finishes Seventh at Richmond, Starts First in Chase
HENRICO COUNTY, Va., (Sept. 10, 2005) - Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished a solid seventh in Saturday night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway.
The 400-lap race around the .75-mile oval was a mere formality for Stewart, as his first-place spot atop the point standings was secured thanks to the 206-point lead he had over second-place Greg Biffle entering Richmond. No matter how Stewart finished in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400, he would lead the point standings for a sixth straight week and into the 10-race, playoff-style Chase for the Championship. But with the point recalibration that comes with the Chase, Stewart's 206-point advantage vanished into a five-point lead.
"Being the point leader is all that matters at the end of the ten races," said Stewart when asked about his new point tally. "That's all that really counts."
While the next 10 races will determine a champion, the Richmond race determined who made the Chase.
Only the top-10 drivers in points are eligible to compete for the championship. All are legitimate title contenders, as each driver - with the exception of eighth-place Carl Edwards and ninth-place Matt Kenseth who are tied with 5,015 points - is separated from one another by a mere five points. With each driver separated by such a small margin, their respective shots at earning a championship in the season's last 10 races are incredibly equal.
Winning the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 was Busch, who scored his third victory of the season and the 14th of his career with a dominating run that saw him lead five times for a race-high 185 laps. His Roush Racing teammates Kenseth and Biffle followed him across the stripe in second and third, respectively, while younger brother Kyle Busch took home fourth ahead of fifth-place Rusty Wallace.
Jeremy Mayfield, winner of last year's Chevy Rock & Roll 400, finished sixth, just ahead of Stewart.
"We had a solid night," said Stewart. "We had a top-five going all night. But we just got a set of tires on that second to last stop - I don't know if it was the right rear or the right sides - but they weren't very good. So when the caution came out we had to come back in and put another set of tires on it, and that fixed it. It was right back to where it was before that set.
"We've had pretty good luck (with tires). I think that's the first set that we've had that was off in probably the whole year. So really, I have no complaints when you have a tire company that does that good of a job. You're not going to hear me complain about it. I just wish we would have had it happen earlier in the race instead of later."
Stewart was a fixture in the top-five for much of the night, despite his 25th place starting spot. He methodically worked his way to the front, cracking the top-five for the first time with a pass of Kenseth on lap 124.
But the set of tires taken during a lap 313 pit stop while under caution sent the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet backward. With the rear end snapping out from underneath him, Stewart dropped anchor, drifting back to 13th.
When the race's second to last caution came out on lap 364, pitting for new tires was a no-brainer. Only two positions were lost, as Stewart restarted 15th when the race resumed on lap 369.
By the end of the race, Stewart had made his way to seventh, picking off Kasey Kahne on the final lap to put him in eighth, just ahead of ninth-place Terry Labonte and 10th place Kevin Harvick.
"We haven't finished outside of the top-eight for almost three months now," said Stewart. "I'm really, really proud of the team and what we've been able to accomplish."
The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the Sept. 18 Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon. Live coverage by TNT begins at 1 p.m. EDT.