Richmond: Tony Stewart race report

Speedy Stewart Runs Second at Richmond HENRICO COUNTY, Va., (May 14, 2005) - Richmond International Raceway has always been a great track for Tony Stewart and the ...

Speedy Stewart Runs Second at Richmond

HENRICO COUNTY, Va., (May 14, 2005) - Richmond International Raceway has always been a great track for Tony Stewart and the #20 Home Depot Racing Team. After all, Stewart scored his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victory here in 1999, and three of his 19 victories have come on the .750-mile oval.

On Saturday night, however, he couldn't track down polesitter Kasey Kahne over the final 105 laps, and he finished second to open-wheel protégé Kasey Kahne in the Chevy American Revolution 400. On the plus side, Stewart led seven times for 143 laps and had a chance for victory with less than 10 laps to go.

On a lap 394 restart, Stewart dragged hard into turn one on the outside of Kahne's car, drawing halfway up the side before Kahne got back to the throttle. The two raced down the backstretch and into turn three, and Kahne once again got back to the gas just a tick before Stewart did and won the race off turn four.

Stewart then had to deal with a suddenly racy Ryan Newman over the final five laps, holding off two spirited runs into turn one before pulling away slightly. He finished second, 1.674 seconds behind Kahne.

"Our Home Depot team did a great job," Stewart said after being the first on pit road to congratulate the first-time winner. "We just got a little bit too tight at the end. I told Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) and the guys that at least we had a shot at it tonight and that's something we haven't been able to say very much this year. I'm really proud of them. We had awesome pit stops and Zippy gave us a great car. We just got beat by a better car and a better driver tonight. He (Kahne) did an awesome job."

After hopping out of his orange-and-black Home Depot Chevrolet on pit road, Stewart was all smiles over both his performance and that of his fellow traveler Kahne. He walked over to Kahne's car, leaned in and shook Kahne's hand after a brief conversation.

"I just told him that down the road when they talk about his first win, I got the honor of being the guy they mentioned hat he had to race for the win," Stewart said. "I'm just really happy for him. It's long overdue. If we were going to run second tonight to anybody, the kid who won the race is the guy to run second to."

Stewart's first victory also came here, and the first to stop him on pit road was Dale Earnhardt. "It brings back a lot of memories of when I was here in '99 and got that first win and Dale Earnhardt was the first guy to see me after the race," Stewart said. "It was an awesome night."

Stewart started the weekend off right, qualifying third on Friday night. He went out 12th and held the pole until Kahne knocked him off as the 41st car out. Third-place finisher Newman also edged Stewart in the starting lineup.

It didn't take long to see what Stewart had under him. Kahne led the first lap, but the next 51 belonged to Stewart. He surrendered the top spot for one lap to Kevin Harvick, then led the next 12 laps before pitting for the first time on lap 66. The Home Depot crew gave Stewart four fresh Goodyears and Sunoco gasoline, made air pressure and track bar adjustments and got him out first, and he would hold the lead through lap 90.

During that span, point leader Jimmie Johnson crashed off turn two, hit the wall and broke the steering on his car, ending his night. He finished 40th, which allowed Stewart to cut 132 points off his lead when the race ended.

Kahne picked Stewart off in traffic to lead lap 91, and he would lead through lap 133. It was a sign of things to come.

Although Stewart ran no lower than fourth all night, he couldn't handle Kahne over long runs. In traffic, however, Stewart was more than Kahne's equal. He used his experience to pin the younger driver on the bottom and rode the top to the lead lap 228, but then the only miscue of the night took place.

Coming off turn four on lap 234 while in the lead, Stewart looped his Home Depot Monte Carlo in front of the field.

"To be perfectly honest, I screwed up (while) having fun," Stewart said. "It was just so much fun dicing in and out of traffic. I haven't been up front and dicing for the lead like that for a long time. The fun thing is the three of us (himself, Kahne and Newman) were up there in the lead and lapping cars that were fighting to stay on the lead lap. But the three of us were looking out for each other and making sure we weren't going to get underneath each other and I just screwed up and spun the car. I asked the crew for a Mulligan and they gave it to me."

Stewart only lost two positions with the quick loop, but the quickness of the caution left crew chief Zipadelli and The Home Depot crew holding the bag. With little time to plan for a pit stop, no adjustments were made and Stewart left pit road with four fresh tires and gas, no more. He was still third when it went back green, though, and no harm, no foul.

He would lead just once more on the night, from laps 290-294, but Kahne caught him in the open and powered past for a lead he would never relinquish. Until the last restart, Stewart was content to chase and save his car for the final laps.

"I kept him honest on the restart, that's for sure" Stewart said with a laugh. "He (Kahne) was not going to make it easy, I promise you that. He did everything right. He ran a really, really, really smooth and what I would consider a perfect race. He didn't do anything wrong. When he wasn't the best on the track, he let guys go. The same guys that he let go gave him respect when they got back up and they let him back by. When it came time at the end to go, he was the fastest car on the track and he made zero mistakes. He didn't give anybody an opportunity to get to him."

It was a solid night for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), as teammate Bobby Labonte finished eighth in his Chevrolet to give JGR two cars in the top 10. Jason Leffler was 25th, one lap down but still running at the finish.

Stewart climbed one spot in the points to sixth, 39 points of third place after 11 races.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the May 21 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge at Charlotte (N.C.). Live coverage of the non-points race begins at 9 p.m. EDT on FX.

-jgr/hdr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing