Sunday, June 2, 2013

Tony Stewart chases down Juan Pablo Montoya to win at The Monster Mile

Smoke celebrates in Victory Lane at Dover.   

As the final laps of the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks wound down, it looked like Juan Pablo Montoya was heading to victory. But Tony Stewart was hungry, maybe even starving, for a win.

With 20 to go, Stewart lurked in fourth place. With 10 to go, he had prowled his way up to second and stalked Montoya, who was fighting a loose racecar. In the final laps, Smoke closed the gap and went in for the kill.  

“It’s fun when you can battle guys like Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon like that,” Stewart said. “It literally was a mind‑set of trying to figure out on a lap whether it was worth risking losing second and finishing third to Jeff if I moved around to try to find a spot to win the race, and to me, that was worth the risk.”

On the radio, Addington told Stewart to go for the win, in so many words.

“The last thing Steve said after when we got ready to go to green, he said, ‘Use it up.’ Which I'm sitting there as a car owner going: I've got to pay for this. You can use it up all you want, but I've got to pay for this at the end of the day. But I knew what he meant.”

Stewart said this win means more to him than a victory on a weekend where they are quickest in practice, sit on the pole and everything goes right all weekend. In addition to Greg Zipadelli and crew chief Steve Addington, Stewart was quick to credit his support personnel, both on the road and back at the shop. He also thanked his engine supplier.

Credit: Beth Bence Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
“There should be about 200 people sitting behind us here that are all responsible for this right now, and another group of guys that sit at a shop about ten miles away that have been a big part of that at Hendrick Motorsports."

A few drivers with Toyota engines had them sputter and die before the race ended. Matt Kenseth led 29 laps with his No. 20 rocketship before his motor gave out, leaving him with a 40th place finish.

“Man, it’s disappointing,” Kenseth said. “I mean, I feel like JGR has three of the strongest teams in the garage. But, you know, you have to finish these things. Obviously, there’s been some issues in that department. Got a lot of faith in them guys. They’ll get it figured out.”

Martin Truex Jr’s engine blew up later, dashing his hopes of repeating his 2007 win at his home track.

“Just dropped a cylinder and started smoking all at once. Same thing happened to the 20, it looked like. Obviously we have the same manufacturer. Pretty disappointing. The NAPA Toyota was really good."

Juan Pablo Montoya finished second, with Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top five.

Caution report:

Lap 81: Debris in Turn 2.
Lap 128: Debris in Turn 3.
Lap 161: Debris on backstretch.
Lap 280: Fluid on the track.
Lap 301: Ryan Newman and David Gilliland crashed on the backstretch.
Lap 318: Kasey Kahne spun in Turn 2 and wrecked into the outside wall.
Lap 378: Denny Hamlin hit the wall, blew a tire, sustained suspension damage and finished 34th.

Race notes:

~ Kyle Busch had a dominant car, led the most laps (150), but a parts failure detracted from his speed. He still managed to run at the front and finished a very respectable fourth.

~ Jimmie Johnson started 24th, fought a loose racecar early on and went a lap down after pitting on Lap 70. He battled back to the front and led 143 laps. Johnson jumped the restart after the seventh caution and served a pass-through penalty, which cost him the win. He finished 17th.

~ Around the halfway mark, cloud cover increased, changing track conditions, but thundershowers did not materialize.

~ Jamie McMurray went to the garage to repair his radiator after a fluid leak, but got back on track and finished 33rd, 19 laps down.

~ The No. 2 car of Brad Keselowski failed post-race inspection. Infraction: front end too low.


For complete finishing order, click here.

For Sprint Cup points standings, click here.
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Beth Bence Reinke is a columnist, support editor & media rep for Skirts and Scuffs. Her column, “Faith on the Frontstretch,” explores the role of faith in motorsports. Beth is also the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female NASCAR fans. Follow her on Twitter at @bbreinke or reach her at bbreinke@skirtsandScuffs.com

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