Rockingham: Tony Stewart race report

Reversal of fortune: Stewart finishes 26th at Rockingham after strong second at Daytona. ROCKINGHAM, N.C., (Feb. 22, 2004) - Sunday's Subway 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at North Carolina Speedway was not the follow-up race Tony Stewart...

Reversal of fortune:
Stewart finishes 26th at Rockingham after strong second at Daytona.

ROCKINGHAM, N.C., (Feb. 22, 2004) - Sunday's Subway 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at North Carolina Speedway was not the follow-up race Tony Stewart and his Home Depot Racing teammates expected after finishing second in the season-opening Daytona 500 a week earlier.

Stewart started 24th in the 43-car field and finished the 393-lap affair two spots worse. His 26th place effort left him four laps down to race winner Matt Kenseth.

Stewart and crew chief Greg Zipadelli could never get a handle on the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet, as it went from extremely loose to too tight, only to return to its loose-handling ways in the second half of the race. Despite numerous chassis adjustments on each and every pit stop - a total of nine during the 3 hour and 45 minute event - the orange and black Monte Carlo was a handful on each circuit of the 1.017-mile oval.

The disappointing result dropped Stewart from second to sixth in the championship point standings, 75 points arrears leader Dale Earnhardt Jr., and 21 points behind fifth-place Jeff Gordon.

Kenseth, the defending series champion, edged out rookie Kasey Kahne for his eighth career Nextel Cup victory. Kahne, in just his second Nextel Cup start, lost out to Kenseth by just .010 seconds, which tied the fourth closest margin of victory (Atlanta on March 12, 2000 - Dale Earnhardt Sr., over Bobby Labonte) since electronic scoring was introduced in 1993. Trailing a close third was Jamie McMurray, while Sterling Marlin and Earnhardt Jr., rounded out the top-five.

Kenseth's win allowed him to climb seven positions in the championship point chase, as he now sits in second-place, seven points behind Earnhardt Jr. Kevin Harvick (-46 points) occupies the third spot, followed by rookie Scott Wimmer (-52 points) in fourth and Gordon (-54 points) in fifth. Stewart, Kurt Busch, Elliott Sadler, Ward Burton and Joe Nemechek comprise the rest of the top-10.

The Nextel Cup Series takes a weekend off before heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 on March 7. The race starts at 3 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Jamie McMurray , Kasey Kahne , Scott Wimmer , Elliott Sadler