Stewart Solid at Talladega Home Depot Driver Notches Sixth-Place Finish, Jumps to Sixth in Points TALLADEGA, Ala., (Oct. 3, 2004) - Tony Stewart spent much of Sunday's EA SPORTS 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Talladega...
Stewart Solid at Talladega
Home Depot Driver Notches Sixth-Place Finish, Jumps to Sixth in Points
TALLADEGA, Ala., (Oct. 3, 2004) - Tony Stewart spent much of Sunday's EA SPORTS 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway biding his time at the back of the field, waiting until the last 40 laps of the 188-lap contest to make his run to the front.
And run he did, vying for the lead with Dale Earnhardt Jr. three laps from the finish. But without any drafting help to take the point from Earnhardt, Stewart was shuffled out of the draft and left with a sixth-place result. Earnhardt went on to score his fifth victory at the 2.66-mile oval, edging a hard-charging Kevin Harvick.
"We went to the inside of Junior and no one went with us," said Stewart's crew chief Greg Zipadelli. "That is how it is."
But even getting that shot at Earnhardt for the win was remarkable, considering The Home Depot Racing Team's brush with disaster during a caution on lap 60. There, Stewart came to pit road and blew past his pit stall. He slammed on the brakes and then slammed the transmission into reverse, backpedaling about 10 feet before he could go forward again and enter his pit box.
A quick four-tire stop was performed flawlessly, but as Stewart rumbled out of the pits he noticed a flaw in the transmission.
"Something's flopping around in the shifter," said Stewart over the radio. To make sure that it was, in fact, the transmission and not the engine, Stewart popped the car out of gear. With no gears engaged the rattling ceased, meaning that whatever potential trouble had befallen the #20 team was specific to the transmission.
The slamming of gears when Stewart missed the pit box most likely broke one of the teeth off the reverse gear. The hope was that the debris would sink to the belly of the transmission and not interfere with the remaining four forward gears. The team's hope came to fruition, with Stewart rallying from deep in the field to challenge for the lead.
Even though they came up short in their bid for career win #20, the #20 team's sixth-place finish vaulted them three spots in the championship point standings. Stewart is now sixth, 152 points arrears Earnhardt, the new series leader.
Earnhardt led nine times for 78 laps - the most of any driver - to score the maximum amount of points possible (190). Harvick's runner-up effort was his best finish of the season, as he crossed the stripe of ahead of Dale Jarrett, rookie Brendan Gaughan and Kurt Busch. Comprising the remainder of the top-10 were Stewart, pole-sitter Joe Nemechek, Casey Mears, Robby Gordon and Ward Burton.
Live coverage of the Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway begins at 2 p.m. EDT on NBC.