Talladega: Tony Stewart race report

Stewart Second at Talladega Again Home Depot Driver Scores Sixth Runner-Up Finish in 11 Talladega Races Tony Stewart drove 500 miles in Monday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and finished exactly ...

Stewart Second at Talladega Again
Home Depot Driver Scores Sixth Runner-Up Finish in 11 Talladega Races

Tony Stewart drove 500 miles in Monday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and finished exactly where he started.

The driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing started the 188-lap contest in second and finished second three-and-a-half hours later to race winner Jimmie Johnson. It was Stewart's third consecutive second-place effort at Talladega and the sixth time he's been the runner-up at the 2.66-mile oval.

"It's still better than third," said Stewart when asked if finishing second so many times at Talladega bothered him. "There are 41 guys who wish they had run as good as we did, and 42 of us who wish we had run as good as Jimmie (Johnson). So, as volatile as this place can be with getting in a wreck and this or that, for us to say that in the last 11 races we've finished second six times is something to be proud of."

Stewart wasn't second the entire race. The two-time and reigning Nextel Cup champion continued to do what no other driver has done this season - lead a lap in every race. Stewart led twice for 11 laps, pacing the field for Laps 3-6 and Laps 173-179.

With less than 10 laps to go, Stewart appeared poised to notch his second win of the season. But following a restart on Lap 179, the Hendrick Motorsports trio of Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers and Johnson made a run on Stewart that dropped The Home Depot pilot to 12th on the next lap. But Stewart battled from the middle of a three-wide sandwich to work his way to the low side, diving beneath the No. 17 of Matt Kenseth through the tri-oval on Lap 185 to move to fifth.

Stewart then tucked in behind the bumper of Johnson to draft past Gordon and Vickers, and with one lap to go it was Johnson and Stewart running 1-2. But Johnson, winner of the season-opening Daytona 500 at the sister track to Talladega, proved strong. And with no drafting help to push him past Johnson, Stewart had to settle for second - again.

"This is not a race track that you can do it all on your own. You have to have help," said Stewart. "When you're going up against three Hendrick cars, and the rest of the group we were there with, it's hard to do it all by yourself.

"Our race wasn't anything real spectacular. For the most part, we just kind of rode around all day, and at the end of the race when it was time to go, we went. We got the lead with about 13 (laps) to go and got the caution. So it was just a matter of trying to hold Jeff (Gordon) off on the restart, and there is no way you're going to when you get 10 or 15 car-lengths away from him. It's tough when they get a run like that and I got shuffled all the way to about 12th or 15th. Then we just spent the last eight laps working our way back up.

"This is our sixth second-place finish in 11 races here. So average-wise, I don't think there is anybody I know of who can beat us on the average of finishes here in the last 10 or 11 races. I'm pretty proud of what this team has been able to accomplish. We had an awesome day."

Stewart's runner-up effort bumped him up two spots to third in the championship point standings, 78 markers arrears Johnson, the new series leader.

Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammates - J.J. Yeley and Denny Hamlin - finished 11th and 22nd, respectively. Yeley gained four point positions to climb to 22nd while Hamlin dropped one spot to 19th.

Johnson's win in the Aaron's 499 was the 21st of his career and his third of the season. In third behind Stewart was Vickers, while Jeff Burton and Jamie McMurray secured the rest of the top-five. Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Scott Riggs and Robby Gordon comprised the rest of the top-10.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the May 6 Crown Royal 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The race begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FX.

-jgr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Robby Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , J.J. Yeley , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing