REVERSAL OF FORTUNE AT TEXAS A Winner Last Year, Stewart Soldiers Home to 11th-Place Finish in 2007 Tony Stewart drove an ill-handling Home Depot Chevrolet to a respectable 11th-place finish in Sunday's Dickies 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race...
REVERSAL OF FORTUNE AT TEXAS
A Winner Last Year, Stewart Soldiers Home to 11th-Place Finish in 2007
Tony Stewart drove an ill-handling Home Depot Chevrolet to a respectable 11th-place finish in Sunday's Dickies 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. But the performance was at the opposite end of the racing spectrum from this time last year when Stewart paced the field eight times for a race-high 278 laps en route to a dominating victory.
"It was a weird race," said Stewart after climbing from his race car on pit road instead of in victory lane like he had last November. "The car was tight. It was loose. Whatever it was doing was unpredictable. It was doing so many things in so many weird parts of the racetrack that it was a handful."
Stewart was undaunted by the skittish nature of his No. 20 machine, as he grabbed a handful of steering wheel and willed his way toward securing a decent result.
It didn't come easy though, as Stewart fell to as far back as 15th -- his starting position in the 334-lap affair -- after spinning off turn two thanks to an unintentional tap by the No. 25 Chevrolet of Casey Mears.
As cars stacked up after a restart on lap 218, Mears' car twitched as he ran the inside groove. He sideswiped the left side of Stewart's orange and black Chevrolet, inducing a lazy spin off turn two where Stewart just barely backed into the outside retaining wall. Other cars behind Stewart crashed as they tried to navigate through the tire smoke, but none hit the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) entry.
Stewart calmly re-fired the engine and came down pit road for fresh tires and some patchwork to his rear bumper, which was as good as new after quick and detailed work by The Home Depot over-the-wall crew. The extended stay on pit road put Stewart as the last car on the lead lap, but in a race that was fast-paced, that meant Stewart dropped to only 15th.
With crew chief Greg Zipadelli constantly adjusting the chassis during each scheduled pit stop, the once evil-handling Home Depot Chevrolet became slightly more docile.
Stewart took his race car's newfound handling and made the most of it. After the final restart on lap 305, Stewart was 12th. He set his sights on 11th-place Elliott Sadler and took the spot from him on lap 307. Next up was 10th-place Kevin Harvick, and Stewart doggedly pursued him to secure a coveted top-10. But time ran out, and Stewart was forced to settle for 11th.