Sears Point: Tony Stewart race report

SMOOTH STEWART FINISHES SECOND AT SONOMA Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Extends Points Lead; Scores Fourth Runner-Up Finish of 2009 Another race, another top-five finish for Tony Stewart and the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet team. The...

SMOOTH STEWART FINISHES SECOND AT SONOMA
Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Extends Points Lead; Scores Fourth Runner-Up Finish of 2009

Another race, another top-five finish for Tony Stewart and the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet team.

The Columbus, Ind. native finished second in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., to score his fourth runner-up and eighth top-five finish of 2009.

"We had a great day with our Office Depot/Old Spice Chevy," said Stewart, who is in his first year as a driver/owner with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). "I'm happy with it compared to where we were yesterday in both the race practices. We were a little disappointed and discouraged when we left the racetrack. But man, it just makes me so proud of Darian Grubb (crew chief) and Jeff Meendering, our car chief. Man, they worked so hard yesterday. I stayed here until the garage closed with them, and everybody in every department of the race car had to make changes. We basically tore everything apart and we changed about six major things between yesterday and today."

The changes late Saturday most certainly helped on Sunday as Stewart was in the top-five for much of the event and led twice for 11 laps.

"We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but it seemed like once we got 15, 20 laps into the run, we were one of the fastest cars on the track, and we just kept marching our way forward," Stewart said. "We weren't getting the fuel mileage we wanted, and that changed our strategy a little bit. Instead of being a two-stop race it turned into a three-stop race for us."

Despite the slight change in strategy, Stewart found himself in a tremendous battle throughout the final 33 laps of the event with Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jimmie Johnson.

"It made it exciting all day," Stewart said. "To have three or four of us at the end that had a shot to get up there if anybody made a mistake, that's an awesome road course race. The restarts were awesome. They were fun. The fans had to enjoy that and it was a good race."

Stewart was behind eventual winner Kahne for all 33 laps in the final segment and four times saw the caution come out and give him a chance to restart right next to the Enumclaw, Wash., native. Unfortunately, Stewart could never get past Kahne and finished .748 of a second behind him in the 113-lap event, which was extended three laps due a green/white/checkered finish.

"Kasey just never made a mistake at the end," said Stewart, who notched his fourth top-five finish at Infineon. "He did an awesome job those last 20 laps and just never slipped a wheel, never missed a corner and made a mistake. He made one mistake the whole time in the closing laps there and we were able to get a run on him, but couldn't do anything when we got there. He was just better than we were."

While Stewart came up short in his bid for victory, his second-place finish helped him extend his championship point lead to 84 markers over second-place Jeff Gordon.

Stewart's SHR teammate, Ryan Newman, finished 17th in the No. 39 Haas Automation/ U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala SS. Newman dropped one spot to sixth in the standings, 318 points out of first.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the June 28 Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at 1:30 p.m.

-credit: shr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya