Monday, October 8, 2012

Smoke Signals: Chance At Win Turns Into ‘The Big One’ for Stewart



As Matt Kenseth (No. 17) drives away, all fans could see
was the underside of Stewart's No. 14 (upper right corner)
Getty Images for NASCAR: Todd Warshaw
Qualifying for the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway proved much better for Stewart-Haas Racing than last weekend’s efforts at Dover. Ryan Newman captured the outside pole in the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet with a speed of 191.145 mph (50.098 seconds) around the high banks of Talladega, while Tony Stewart started behind Newman in fourth place in the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet following his qualifying lap of 190.993 mph (50.138 seconds).


On Sunday, as expected, Newman and Stewart became a tandem and ran up front for the first 10 laps. The duo then changed their strategy, dropping to the middle of the pack in hopes of avoiding “The Big One.”

Newman remained in the middle of the pack going into the final laps, and some quick thinking on his part and some well-timed guidance from spotter Jimmy Kitchens led Newman through the wreckage in front of him in the final turn, bringing the No. 39 across the finish line in ninth.

“I have to give Jimmy a lot of credit,” said Newman on the SHR website. “I couldn’t see because of all the smoke and the wrecking cars, and it was hard for him to see. But he stayed calm and got me through that mess. It takes teamwork to succeed in your mission, and while we didn’t win, it feels really good to finish one of these races with an un-wrecked racecar.”

Stewart, however, wasn’t so lucky – in fact, he would admit in his post-race interview that he was, in fact, the one responsible for the 20-plus car pile-up in Turn 4 on the last lap. While Newman chose to stay mid-pack in the waning laps of the race, Stewart raced to the front and took the lead on the final lap. While protecting the lead, he moved in front of Michael Waltrip, and their brief contact was all that was needed to start “The Big One.”

“I was trying to win the race, and I was trying to stay ahead of Matt (Kenseth),” said Stewart on the SHR website. “Michael (Waltrip) got a great run on the bottom, had a big head of steam. When I turned down, I turned down across the right-front of his car. A mistake on my part. It cost a lot of people a bad day because of it.”

Stewart was credited with a 22nd-place finish, and slipped two spots in the Chase point standings to seventh, 46 points behind leader Brad Keselowski. Newman moved up one spot in points to 14th place, 47 points back from 13th-place Kyle Busch.



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