STEWART RALLIES TWICE TO NAB TOP-10 AT SONOMA Second Looked Likely Until Chain-Reaction Crash Forced Late-Race Charge Tony Stewart twice rallied his way from deep in the 43-car field of Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series...
STEWART RALLIES TWICE TO NAB TOP-10 AT SONOMA
Second Looked Likely Until Chain-Reaction Crash Forced Late-Race Charge
Tony Stewart twice rallied his way from deep in the 43-car field of Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Infineon Raceway road course in Sonoma, Calif., to finish 10th. It was his second straight top-10 finish, his eighth of the season and his 13th top-10 in 19 career Sprint Cup road course races.
After starting 39th and picking up 37 positions to run second to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and eventual race winner Kyle Busch by lap 104, Stewart was punted two laps later in a chain-reaction crash in turn seven when Kevin Harvick overshot the corner and knocked Jamie McMurray's Ford into Stewart's Toyota.
All three drivers spun, but Stewart quickly re-fired his No. 20 Home Depot Toyota and sped away in 19th. Even with four of the race's last eight laps run under two caution periods, the second of which set-up a green-white-checkered finish, Stewart picked up nine positions to salvage a decent finish.
"We came from 39th and ran second. I think we as a team did a really good job," Stewart said. "We weren't good enough to win. Kyle was better than us. Jamie (McMurray) was better than us. We had a good opportunity getting up to second there, but that was about it."
Stewart's run to second was the show within the show. That was evident on just the second circuit around the 12-turn, 1.99-mile road course, where coming down into turn seven, Stewart drove deep into the corner and low around an unsuspecting A.J. Allmendinger. The two banged together with Stewart emerging no worse for wear. By lap five, Stewart was 30th and looking for more.
By lap 18, Stewart had cracked the top-25 and was eyeing 20th.
Green flag pit stops began on lap 25, and crew chief Greg Zipadelli implored Stewart to drive as hard as he could. With those ahead of Stewart pitting for fuel and tires, fast lap times would allow Stewart to make up even more time on his competition.
Stewart finally pitted on lap 29, and then a fortuitous caution flag waved a lap later. With many of those in front of Stewart not having yet pitted, Stewart was able to leapfrog them when they made their scheduled stops while the race was under caution.
The Home Depot driver vaulted to eighth when the race restarted on lap 32, and then quickly jettisoned Greg Biffle, David Gilliland and Harvick to break into the top-five by lap 33.
Stewart became a top-five mainstay, passing Marcos Ambrose for fourth on lap 81, a resurgent Gilliland for third on lap 97, and then McMurray for second after a restart on lap 104.
His time in the runner-up slot to the dominant Busch, who wound up leading twice for a race-high 78 laps, was short-lived due to Harvick's ill-timed dive into turn seven on lap 106.
The resulting spin dropped Stewart to 19th, but he climbed to 15th after just one green flag lap before the caution flag flew for the final time on lap 108 for a multi-car accident in turn two. That sent the race into overtime via a green-white-checkered finish, where in the final two laps of the now 112-lap contest, Stewart passed another five cars to take 10th.
"I just went somewhere on the race track where they weren't," said Stewart when asked how he made his way to the front, not once but twice. "That's the easiest way to pass cars."
While far from an easy drive, Stewart's tenacity behind the wheel staved off a poor run and replaced it with a gritty and determined top-10 effort. It maintained Stewart's 11th-place standing in the championship driver standings, where he now has an 18-point buffer over 13th-place Harvick -- the nearest driver on the outside looking in of the 12-driver Chase for the Championship, which will be decided after only 10 more races.