Stewart sees green, then red in The Winston CONCORD, N.C. (May 18, 2003) - Tony Stewart showed a dominant Home Depot Chevrolet early in Saturday night's running of The Winston at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but when the big payout was made for the...
Stewart sees green, then red in The Winston
CONCORD, N.C. (May 18, 2003) - Tony Stewart showed a dominant Home Depot Chevrolet early in Saturday night's running of The Winston at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but when the big payout was made for the man leading the last lap, Stewart was dressed in street clothes and long gone from the 1.5-mile oval.
After leading twice for a total of 18 laps to clinch the first race segment and $50,000, Stewart set about the second segment in the very same way he ended the first - out front. He led the first 16 laps of the second segment before coming to pit road while under caution on lap 48.
The pit stop was an unscheduled one, as Stewart's car was stout. But fearing that those who opted to pit for fresh tires would get the better of him, Stewart unexpectedly peeled onto pit road for some fresh rubber of his own. The Home Depot over-the-wall crew quickly mustered itself atop the pit wall, and when Stewart arrived, performed a flawless stop.
But Stewart was now at the tail-end of the 20-car field, and with only the top-14 finishers advancing to the final, 20-lap segment - which was where an unprecedented $1 million payout awaited - Stewart was anxious to move toward the front.
He was doing just that when on lap 69 while vying for a spot in the top-10, Stewart became involved in an accident that collected Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"We got down into (turn) one and I got a big run," said Stewart, recollecting the event as he walked back from a quick check-up in the infield care center. "I went down to the inside of Terry (Labonte), and if I could've carried the momentum I would've tried to go three-wide into one and make him lift. But I didn't get that big of a run. So I just sat back and basically tried to get back in line.
"I got back in line and evidently his spotter told him that I was still inside, so when we went down into the corner he checked up, and then I checked up. I was right behind him and I hit him square in the rear end. He thought I was still down there and that I was already behind him, and when he checked up to help both of us down there, there wasn't anywhere for either of us to go.
"I think next year I'll take the night off," continued Stewart, obviously disappointed over what could've been. "I don't want to get wrecked in a non-points race that has turned out to be a hack-fest every year."
Of those who were able to continue into the final segment, Jimmie Johnson emerged victorious. After taking the lead from his car owner and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon on lap 75, he never looked back. Johnson's winnings totaled $1,017,604 - the highest payout ever in the 19-year history of The Winston.
Following Johnson to the line in second was Kurt Busch, while Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte finished third. Joe Nemechek and Michael Waltrip came home fourth and fifth, respectively. And rounding out the top-10 were Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Gordon, Jeff Burton and Ricky Craven.
The Winston Cup Series returns to point racing and to Charlotte on May 25 for the Coca-Cola 600. Live coverage by FOX begins at 5:30 p.m. EDT.