Stewart finding that going isn't easy Shawn A. Akers - NASCAR Online ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 21, 1998) Tony Stewart is learning quickly how tough it is to win races in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division. Last Saturday...
Stewart finding that going isn't easy Shawn A. Akers - NASCAR Online
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 21, 1998) Tony Stewart is learning quickly how tough it is to win races in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division.
Last Saturday at Daytona, Stewart was in a position to challenge for victory in the season-opening NAPA Auto Parts 300, but crashed in the final 10 laps. On Saturday at North Carolina Speedway, Stewart was leading the GM Goodwrench Service Plus 200 and appeared on his way to Victory Lane when Matt Kenseth overtook him on the final lap and edged the driver of the No. 44 Shell Oil Pontiac at the checkered flag by a mere .092 seconds.
Stewart, who led three times for 60 laps, led laps 152 through 196 before Kenseth chased him down and overtook him approximately 100 yards before the finish line. The two bumped and touched paint several times in the last lap jockeying for position.
"We had him (Kenseth) beat until Turn 4," Stewart said. "I had to run against lapped traffic real hard. It was probably a little inexperience on my part. He got us in the left rear and got us loose a little bit. He knew he was going to have to do something to get by us and that's the only thing he could do.
"I went into three (on the last lap), and coming off the corner I was coming off the same like the other 196 laps, and coming off that time he got me in the left rear. That was the only way he could get by me. I was on the gas as hard as I could go, and, evidently, it wasn't hard enough for him. I wouldn't have taken him out. I would not have done that."
Kenseth, who recorded his first career NASCAR Busch Series triumph, had nothing but praise for Stewart following the race.
"My hat's off to Tony Stewart," Kenseth said. "He's a great racer. He drove into Turn 1 pretty hard. I got underneath him and we did a little rubbing off Turn 2. We both just about crashed.
"A coupled of lapped cars were down there and he pinched me with that. I got a real good run off 4. The air got him a tick loose and I just touched him in the rear end and got him a little loose and passed him. I really didn't need to bump him to win the race. I thought I could have won the race one on one, but we got with some lapped traffic there and that's just the way it turned out."
Stewart won his first career NASCAR Busch Series Bud Pole award on Friday afternoon, serving notice that his team's qualifying efforts are top-notch as well. He led the first four laps of Saturday's race before being overtaken by Jeff Burton, but stayed in the top-five throughout the entire race.
The reigning Indy Racing League champion, Stewart won that series' season opener last month at Walt Disney World Speedway near Orlando. He has yet to taste victory in the NASCAR Busch Series, however.
The next opportunity for him and his Joe Gibbs Racing team to do so will come next Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Sam's Town 300.