Rain on Stewart's Michigan parade Leads most laps, but rain thwarts shot at first Busch Series win BROOKLYN, Mich., (Aug. 16, 2003) - Tony Stewart was on track to score his first NASCAR Busch Series victory before rain washed away a ...
Rain on Stewart's Michigan parade
Leads most laps, but rain thwarts shot at first Busch Series win
BROOKLYN, Mich., (Aug. 16, 2003) - Tony Stewart was on track to score his first NASCAR Busch Series victory before rain washed away a dominant performance in Saturday's Cabela's 250 at Michigan International Speedway.
Stewart started the 125-lap race from fourth in the 43-car field, and by the time lap one was complete, his #8 Three Doors Down/Chance 2 Chevrolet was first. In his dust was pole-sitter Kasey Kahne, David Reutimann and Casey Mears, who started first, second and third, respectively.
Stewart paced the field for 46 laps before yielding the lead to come to pit road for scheduled service during the race's second caution period on lap 48. A slight air pressure adjustment along with four fresh tires and a full tank of fuel took 18.1 seconds, about two seconds longer than many of his competitors. As a result, Stewart emerged from the pits in fourth.
When the green flag dropped on lap 50, Matt Kenseth led while Scott Riggs and Kevin Harvick sat between Stewart and the lead. Thirteen laps later that was no longer the case, as Stewart reasserted his place at the point. The #8 machine showed its strength, opening up a lead of over 10 seconds ahead of Stewart's nearest pursuer - Harvick.
But with the race being dictated by fuel mileage, Stewart was forced to pit while under green on lap 100. This time, only right side tires were taken as just enough fuel was added to make it to the finish. Stewart emerged from pit road in 16th, but his quick car allowed him to knife through the field with relative ease. After three runner-up Busch Series finishes in 36 career starts, win number one was on the horizon.
However, that horizon became very cloudy when rain drops started pelting the two-mile oval on lap 108. NASCAR was forced to red flag the race on lap 110, where Stewart had climbed to 11th. As soon as the rain came, it abated, giving hope to Stewart and his Kevin Manion-led crew that track officials would be able to dry the race track and allow the Chance 2 team a shot at the win.
Thirty minutes passed and a solid groove of dryness was apparent around the race track. Unfortunately, that's as dry as the track would get, for more rain moved in. Harvick, who gambled that he could go the race distance by pitting during the race's third caution on lap 65, held the lead when the rains came. When NASCAR called the race official - 15 laps short of its scheduled distance - Harvick had his 11th career Busch Series victory, while all Stewart had was an 11th place finish.
"We didn't need the rain, by any means," said a disappointed Stewart, who wound up leading twice for 86 laps - the most of any driver. "But I think everyone knew who had the fastest car, regardless of the outcome."
"The car was awesome. We really worked hard yesterday during practice. Bono (Kevin Manion, crew chief) and his guys on this Chance 2 crew did a great job. We never really made any long runs. We knew we only had 45 minutes for happy hour, so we'd go out and run three or four laps and then come in to change something, trying to get the balance right on the car. Bono made the changes he wanted to make, and today we were perfect right from the get-go. The car was bad to the bone. I'm not having much fun sitting on a wet pit wall, but I had a lot of fun out there on the race track."
Following the race, Stewart donated his share of the purse to the Dale Earnhardt Foundation, along with his race worn firesuit and helmet.