Thomas Bowles · Sunday August 14, 2005
To the Point: Tony Stewart continued his recent domination of the Nextel Cup circuit, leading 83 of 92 laps and surviving an alternator problem late en route to his fifth victory in seven races at the Sirius Satellite Radio at the Glen.
Who Should Have Won: Tony Stewart. Same ol’ song for Tony. You can say he was granted the gift of track position by starting on the pole with the rainout, you can say that his main competitors suffered from issues beyond their control (Jeff Gordon had tire issues, and Boris Said, Scott Pruett, and Robby Gordon had to come from the back). But Stewart would have likely won the pole if qualifying finished on Saturday, and was on his game in every sense of the word.
Five Questions You Should be Asking After the Race Weekend:
1) Is Tony Stewart peaking too soon? Five wins in seven races is without a doubt the hottest streak Stewart’s endured in his career, but can they do another five wins in seven races when we come to the Chase? Tony’s hardest challenge may be to maintain the momentum when the final ten races come calling, and a likely triple digit point lead gets reduced to five.
2) How many chances do we have left for the “road course ringers” to win themselves a race, and will anybody follow in their footsteps? Ron Fellows, Boris Said, and Scott Pruett are in their 40s, and all fell just short again on Sunday, although Boris did improve on his career-best Cup finish with a third.
3) Notice how quickly NASCAR cleaned up the track for this green-white-checkered finish? I’m sure they weren’t too keen on the media backlash that would follow any drivers who ran out of fuel with the extended distance, unfair as that may have been. Luckily, no drivers ran out of gas and the final two laps were run with no real incidents.
4) Can Kurt Busch’s team keep it together now that the defending champion is officially a “lame duck” in that ride? A poor finish on Sunday put Kurt toward the back end of the Top 10 in the standings, and the 97 is by no means a lock for the postseason quite yet.
5) With blocking increasingly becoming an issue at one-groove race tracks and road courses, will NASCAR pay closer attention to the restarts? Several drivers were upset with the way Stewart brought the field up to speed on Sunday in the final two restarts, although they appeared clean upon further review.
Stewart’s win is his fifth in seven starts. At Michigan, he will attempt to become just the eighth driver (and the first since 1998) to win four races in a row in NASCAR’s modern era.
Robby Gordon was a man possessed Sunday, coming all the way from the back to post a second-place finish behind Stewart. The run was easily Robby’s best since he won at Watkins Glen in 2003, a span of 72 races.
Boris Said’s 3rd-place finish was the best of his career and first ever Top 5 finish (his previous best was two 6ths). The 3rd-place run obliterated his previous best finish at Watkins Glen, an 8th-place back in 2001.
Rusty Wallace, long considered one of NASCAR’s road racing experts, finished in the Top 10 for the first time at Watkins Glen since 1999 (6th place).
With Mark Martin’s 7th-place finish, he has continued an amazing streak where he’s finished in the Top 10 in all but two races at Watkins Glen since 1988.
Ron Fellow’s 25th-place run was his worst performance at a road course race he actually finished since Sears Point in 2002.
And since it doesn’t fit anywhere else, kudos to NBC for their tribute on Coo Coo Marlin, giving Sterling Marlin’s dad his just due as one of NASCAR’s true pioneers.
Stewart’s win, combined with Jimmie Johnson’s 5th-place finish, puts Tony 105 points in front after Sunday’s event with 4 races until the Chase.
The biggest moves happened far behind the top two leaders. Greg Biffle struggled with a transmission problem that sent him behind the wall; the 16 car was classified 38th at the end of the day, and saw himself fall 252 points behind the leader, his hopes for taking the points lead before the Chase all but dashed. Instead, Biffle has Rusty in his rear view mirror, as a strong 6th-place run on Sunday vaulted Wallace to within 6 points of Biffle for 3rd. Another veteran, Mark Martin, rounds out the top five, as his 7th-place run puts him 331 points behind the leader.
Martin easily moved ahead of Kurt Busch, who struggled with a myriad of issues on Sunday on his way to finishing 39th. He drops to 6th, 421 points behind the leader and just 102 points from being pushed outside the Top 10. Another driver who fell back was Ryan Newman, dropping to 8th points, 467 behind Tony Stewart after experiencing transmission problems. Jeremy Mayfield vaulted ahead of him to 7th place, 429 behind Stewart.
As for the battle for the final Top 10 spots, Jamie McMurray moved up to 9th with a solid run Sunday, 514 points behind the top of the charts. Carl Edwards now holds the final spot in the Top 10, 520 points behind the leader but just 3 ahead of Robert Yates Racing teammates Dale Jarrett and Elliott Sadler. Jeff Gordon made a small gain on Sunday, but tire problems and a pit road penalty forced him to the back late, relegating him to a 14th-place finish which only allowed him to close within 67 points of the Top 10. He did pass Kevin Harvick for 13th place in points, as Harvick dropped to 70 points out of the Top 10. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Matt Kenseth round out those in contention for making the Chase, 163 and 165 points out of the Top 10 after ho-hum runs on Sunday.
Back in the standings a bit, Brian Vickers continued his recent success, as a Top 10 on Sunday vaulted him from 22nd to 18th in the points standings. Jeff Burton’s crash and 43rd-place finish, on the other hand, dropped him from 18th to 22nd.
“The only time anybody could get close to us was on the restarts, but this thing went really fast today. We had an absolutely flawless day other than the alternator.” -Tony Stewart
“Tony did a good job on the (second-to-last) restart—- he stabbed the brakes and I checked up—- he was gone and I was passed for second. If I were in Tony’s position, I would have done the same thing. It was a good move on his part.” -Boris Said
“Coo Coo was a husband, a father, and a mentor in many ways. I saw a lot of Sterling in Coo Coo. He was certainly a vanishing breed, but not a breed you’ll ever forget about.” – Chip Ganassi, on the passing of Sterling’s father Coo Coo Marlin
“I can’t keep up with all that, hell, that’s too much to worry about (making the Chase). I just try to get as many points as I can, and then I get on NASCAR.com when I get home and see if I gained any ground. That’s about how it works.” – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on his Chase chances
The Nextel Cup teams return to Michigan for a second go-round at the track with the GFS Marketplace 400 this Sunday.
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