Talladega II: Tony Stewart race report

Second at Talladega Puts Stewart First in Points TALLADEGA, Ala., (Oct. 2, 2005) - Tony Stewart finished second in Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, and in the process, retook the lead in the...

Second at Talladega Puts Stewart First in Points

TALLADEGA, Ala., (Oct. 2, 2005) - Tony Stewart finished second in Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, and in the process, retook the lead in the series point standings.

The driver of the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet led 11 times for a race high 65 laps - nearly three times the amount of laps led by anyone else - and was a factor for the win throughout much of the 190-lap contest, which went two laps beyond its scheduled distance when Ken Schrader crashed on lap 184.

The resulting green-white-checker format made for some good theatre.

Stewart restarted in third behind leader Matt Kenseth and second-place Ryan Newman, but as soon as the green flag dropped Stewart dropped to the inside in a bid for the lead. Dale Jarrett pushed Stewart to the point, but soon Jarrett's momentum pushed him past Stewart. The two drivers were running side by side, with Jarrett having a fender-length advantage over Stewart's #20 machine.

Then Kyle Petty crashed off turn two as Jarrett and Stewart roared down the backstretch. The field was frozen. Jarrett's scant lead was all he needed to eek out a victory, his first in 99 races.

"You've got to look at the big picture," said Stewart after the nail-biting finish. "When you come to a place like this where you have to rely on everybody else's help - anytime you can finish in the top-two here, that's a pretty good day. There've been a lot of days when we finished second here with what was probably a 10th place car.

"But we got ourselves in a good position and got with a partner of ours that has won a lot of races here. When we get together, we always run well together, and we have trust in each other and that's why we were able to do so much. But considering the circumstances and what the big goal is at the end of the year, second-place was fine today.

Stewart's second-place result was his fifth runner-up finish at the 2.66-mile oval. When asked if he was disappointed with the result, Stewart said, "No, there's still 41 guys that were trying to be ahead of me that didn't get that done."

Vying for the win and getting that second-place finish was by no means a sure thing, as an overheating engine during the race's first 80 laps gave The Home Depot Racing Team cause for concern.

"We were somewhere around 10th and we got back up toward the top-five and I looked at the water gauge and it was about 265 (degrees) at the time and it kept climbing to 275," said Stewart. "I had the fan on and everything. I couldn't do anything else inside the car.

"We could never really get a handle on it. I kept trying to duck out and get some fresh air to it but it never brought (the water temperature) down like it typically does in practice.

"But we just kept coming in and kept peeling a strip of tape off (the grill) at a time. We finally ended up peeling all the tape off the car. I'm sure that slowed it down a little bit, but at the same time at least we got the heat issue under control. I'm sure when the temp got up to 275 like that it pushed some water out. So when we came in on the stops, we knew we were going to have to give up track position, but they filled it back up with water and cooled it off each time.

"We just kept a positive frame of mind. We knew we were going to have to do it the hard way today. We just kept doing what we could do to take care of the car, because if you get that thing to where it hurts the motor at all, you're really in bad shape. So to be able to get through that was really a good job by the guys."

The overheating fix by a calm and collected crew was key to Stewart's strong run, not just in the race, but in the Chase.

Stewart entered Talladega fifth in points, 23 markers arrears series leader Jimmie Johnson. It was the first time in eight weeks Stewart hadn't led the points. But thanks to his second-place result and the misfortune of other Chase drivers, Stewart left Talladega back atop the standings.

While only four points separate Stewart from second-place Ryan Newman, there's far more distance between Stewart and the rest of the Chase contenders.

Dale Jarrett won the UAW-Ford 500 to score his first victory of the season and the 32nd of his Nextel Cup career. Stewart finished second, while Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards rounded-out the rest of the top-five. Comprising the remainder of the top-10 were Brian Vickers, Sterling Marlin, Kurt Busch, Joe Nemechek and Kevin Harvick.

Live coverage of next week's Banquet 400 begins at 1:30 p.m. EDT on NBC.


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards