Watkins Glen: Tony Stewart race report

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., (Aug. 10, 2003) - Heading into Sunday's Sirius at The Glen, Tony Stewart looked to be a serious threat to repeat his Watkins Glen victory from a year ago. Stewart came into The Glen with an average start of fifth in his nine...

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., (Aug. 10, 2003) - Heading into Sunday's Sirius at The Glen, Tony Stewart looked to be a serious threat to repeat his Watkins Glen victory from a year ago. Stewart came into The Glen with an average start of fifth in his nine career road coarse races, and he lived up to that stat during Friday's qualifying run, wheeling the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet to the fourth quickest time trial run around the 11-turn, 2.45-mile road course.

The weekend, however, quickly turned south for Stewart and Co. following Saturday's final practice, as a mechanical malfunction was discovered in the team's engine. The primary engine was immediately replaced with a backup, but fearing a similar fate as the primary, Joe Gibbs Racing opted to replace the backup engine as well.

An engine was flown in from the team's headquarters in Huntersville, N.C., early Sunday morning, where it was quickly installed into the #20 machine by chief engine builder Mark Cronquist and crew. Per the NASCAR rule book, any team changing engines after qualifying must start at the rear of the field. Stewart was forced to start the 90-lap race from 40th, but he was not alone, as Jimmie Johnson, Jimmy Spencer, Boris Said and Christian Fittipaldi were also sent to the back of the field for engine changes.

As the green flag dropped, Stewart wasted no time reclaiming lost real estate. With the help of some early cautions combined with flawless pit work, Stewart worked his way to 15th by lap 40.

But Stewart's run to the front hit a snag on lap 51, when a spinning Rusty Wallace sent out the fifth caution of the day. Those directly behind Wallace immediately headed to the pits for fuel and fresh tires, knowing that the caution would come out for Wallace's stalled car. They were able to make their pit stop before the caution flag officially waved, while many other drivers - including Stewart - had to stay out. Those who pitted before the yellow gained valuable track position, while those who pitted during the yellow lost track position.

Stewart finally pitted on lap 52 for four tires and fuel. Realizing that Stewart didn't have the fuel mileage to go the distance, crew chief Greg Zipadelli called for an additional fuel only stop on lap 59 while the race was still under caution. After quick, back-to-back stops, Stewart emerged in 36th.

With 30 laps remaining, Stewart drove hard, picking up 25 positions before the checkered flag waived. His 11th place result boosted him up one spot in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship point standings to 11th, 744 markers behind series leader Matt Kenseth.

"We had one of the best cars in the field and got ourselves up in decent position, but had to give it all back due to fuel mileage," said a disappointed Zipadelli. "It's really frustrating because our fuel mileage hasn't been good as of late. We've been working hard trying to improve it. However, it seems like other teams are much better than we are. I'm not sure if the adjustment needs to come from the carburetor or what, but we need to work harder on making it better because it's costing us an awful lot. I guess that's just racing, but that's just how our season has been."

Robby Gordon took the victory for his second consecutive road course triumph in 2003 as well as the third Winston Cup win of his career. Rounding out the top-five behind Gordon was road course ringer Scott Pruett, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson and last week's Brickyard 400 winner Kevin Harvick.

The next event on the Winston Cup schedule is the Aug. 17 GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Live coverage by TNT begins at 2 p.m. EDT.

-jgr/hdr-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Boris Said , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Robby Gordon , Christian Fittipaldi , Jimmie Johnson
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing