Stewart Solid in Texas Home Depot Driver Leads Twice for 99 Laps En Route to Third-Place Finish Tony Stewart led twice for a race-high 99 laps in Sunday's Samsung/RadioShack 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at Texas Motor Speedway, but it...
Stewart Solid in Texas
Home Depot Driver Leads Twice for 99 Laps En Route to Third-Place Finish
Tony Stewart led twice for a race-high 99 laps in Sunday's Samsung/RadioShack 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event at Texas Motor Speedway, but it still wasn't enough to catch an ultra-fast Kasey Kahne at the end of the 334-lap race. Stewart drove his #20 Home Depot Chevrolet across the stripe in third-place, his career-best finish at Texas. His previous high was fifth in April 2002.
"Awesome race for us," said Stewart, who started a distant 40th in the 43-car field. "It was so much fun racing Kasey (Kahne). I'm glad he won. My congratulations to him, (owner) Ray Evernham, and their guys. We had nothing for them there at the end. We put on a set of tires at the end of the race in an effort to be a little bit tighter so that we could run harder, but ended up being freer. We just couldn't stay with him and couldn't hold off Matt (Kenseth) either.
"I could run the top of the track. I was really good on the top for a while in (Turns) 1 and 2, and I felt like I was faster in (Turns) 3 and 4 on the bottom. But it finally got to the point where Kasey started running me back down on the bottom in (Turns) 1 and 2, so I moved back down. I think it helped my entry to the center, but I think it hurt my exit to the corner.
"We were extremely loose there at the end. Even if we got the car balanced, I don't think we could've caught Kasey. It was like he upped the ante a whole other notch there at the end. He did an awesome job. His car was really good on long runs. I knew that if he could get two or three laps on a restart that he was going to be tough to handle."
Despite fading late in the race, Stewart continued to do what no other Nextel Cup driver has done in 2006 - lead a lap in every race. In fact, Stewart has led at least 20 laps in every race this season and has led 784 total laps in 2006, almost twice the amount of laps led by Greg Biffle, who is second in the laps led category with 404. With that, the two-time and reigning Nextel Cup champion has earned 50 lap leader bonus points - the most of any driver.
Stewart, who has four top-five finishes in 2006, moved from eighth to fifth in the Nextel Cup point standings and is 97 points behind championship point leader Jimmie Johnson.
"I'm really proud of our team," said Stewart. "We made some adjustments and made bigger steps then we're accustomed to making. But where we ended up today was a positive deal. The crew did a great job in making the adjustments that kept us in the race. Everyone worked hard, and the whole day was pretty uneventful with no big dramas, except for the Carl Edwards thing."
The "thing" was an incredibly close call with a spinning Carl Edwards on Lap 258. There, Edwards spun off Turn 2, bounced off the outside wall and careened across the track, narrowly missing Stewart's rear bumper before crashing nose-first into the inside wall.
"He just lost it there right in front of the whole field," said Stewart. "He was loose about three times before he actually lost it. I'm just glad nobody else got caught up in it. He got into the side of Jeff Gordon and that slowed him down. The thing that scared me was how fast he was coming across the track. When you see a car go across to the inside wall like that, it makes you nervous for the guy inside. I'm glad he's alright."
Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammates - Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley - finished fourth and 35th, respectively. Hamlin jumped nine spots to 14th in points while Yeley dropped two positions to 24th.
Kahne's win was his third career Nextel Cup victory and his second of the season, as his last victory came three races ago at Atlanta - the sister track to Texas. Kahne won from the pole, a feat he has accomplished in each of his Nextel Cup wins.
Kenseth finished second, while Stewart, Hamlin and Kevin Harvick secured the rest of the top-five. Jeff Burton, Scott Riggs, Martin Truex Jr., Mark Martin and former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte comprised the rest of the top-10.
The Nextel Cup Series takes a weekend off for Easter before heading to Phoenix International Raceway for the April 22 Subway Fresh 500k. The race starts at 8:25 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.