Stewart Ends Dry Spell By Winning At Dover
Tony Stewart ended a winless streak of almost a full year Sunday when he won the Sprint Cup race at Dover International Raceway.
The victory was secured when Stewart passed Juan Montoya for the lead with three laps to go. Montoya finished second while Jeff Gordon was third.
The victory came on one of Stewart’s least favorite and least successful tracks. A place where he has not won since 2000.
“If somebody would have told me it was going to be that way yesterday I would have told them they were crazy,” Stewart said. “This thing was not a car that could win the race. Just great pit strategy at the end. We had a car that was solid we just never got track position to get in clean air. It felt a lot better up front. Steve Addington (crew chief) made a great call there that last caution and gave us the opportunity to race for it up there.”
Jimmie Johnson appeared to be on the verge of adding another victory to his resume as he was restarting on the inside of the front row after the final caution of the race.
Johnson surged ahead of Montoya, who was the race leader and restarting next to him, as the cars came onto the front stretch but NASCAR officials ruled the the f-time champion jumped the start.
Johnson was black flagged and had to serve a drive-through penalty. Afterward, he denied jumping the restart saying Montoya laid back. And Johnson affirmed that he thought he could have collected the win.
“Certainly had the winning car,” he said.
“I totally disagree with the call, but it is what it is, and we’ll just come back and try to win in the fall,” he added.
Johnson knew he had beaten Montoya to the start/finish line, not knowing whether something was wrong with Montoya’s car, and said he tried to give the position back to the Colombian driver.
“I ran half-throttle for the first half a lap, waiting for him, and then at some point you’ve got to go, and you’ve got to race, and that’s when I got back in the gas and took off,” he explained. “I was hoping they would see that I was trying to give him the spot back.”
NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton, however, described the penalty as cut-and-dried.
“That was an easy call — a very easy call,” Pemberton said. “He beat the 42 even out of the (restart) box, from what we could see on the film, we give ‘em an opportunity to give it back.”
Kyle Busch finished fourth and Brad Keselowski was fifth.
“We drove hard all day,” Keselowski, the defending series champ said, “we just didn’t have the speed needed to go win the race but we had the speed we needed to have a solid day. The guys did a great job executing today. It is cool to see Tony (Stewart) win, he did a hell of a job driving that thing and it was a good race. I was having fun watching them but I wish I could have gotten up there. It was another solid day but we want to win too so we will keep working to find a little more speed and get up there.”
Stewart, who has struggled for much of this year, was happy to take the win, no matter how it came his way. Coming on the heels of a seventh-place run last week at Charlotte, a 1.5-mile downforce track, Stewart was happy to point out the progress his team is making.
“It’s definitely momentum,” Stewart said. “We got two weeks of momentum under our belt now at two totally different race tracks. That is big. Momentum is huge in this sport. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. We won’t sit… I guarantee you none of these guys behind you (his crew) will tell you we are exactly where we want to be right now. It’s a good reward for how hard they have been working to get that first win of the year.
“Now it’s trying to be more consistent and stay in the top 10 more and make our program better. It’s proof that no matter how bad it’s been this year, none of these guys have quit and given up. Just really proud of the effort this weekend; I think we probably made more gains from Friday to right now than any team in the garage did. I’m really proud of that fact.”
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