Tony Stewart had an OK qualifying effort on Friday afternoon, placing his No. 14 Old Spice Chevrolet Impala SS 13th on the grid. Before the race was postponed on Sunday, Stewart said that he would like the weather to warm up, allowing the track to get slippery.
He got his wish.
On Monday, it was a muggy 83 degrees when the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen got underway. Stewart’s car, however, was set up for more of a cloudy day and held firm for the first 20 laps.
Then the first caution came out for debris in the Inner Loop, and Stewart pitted. While on pit road, Stewart’s pit crew made a slew of adjustments to the Old Spice Chevrolet which really brought it to life.
Stewart moved up through the field, and took the lead for the first time on a restart on lap 46. He lost the lead as a result of the green-flag pit stops, but he regained it on lap 67 from Kyle Busch. From there, Stewart held on for the win. It is his third victory of the season and his fifth victory at the 2.45-mile road course, surpassing Jeff Gordon‘s record of four victories at the upstate New York track.
After the race, in between randomly busting the chops of columnists, Stewart was very happy with his victory.
“I’m excited about it,” Tony said during the post-race press conference. “We weren’t as strong as we needed to be… until the end of the first run. Came in on the first stop and I asked Darian [Grubb] for a lot of changes. [The crew] did an awesome job.”
After former leader Kyle Busch overcooked it going into turn 10 on lap 70, Marcos Ambrose assumed second place and held it to the end of the event. Afterwards, Ambrose was happy with the result.
“It was just a great weekend for us,” Ambrose said. “We didn’t quite close the deal, but it’s just been a great weekend for us. I’m really excited for our future.”
Following Stewart and Ambrose to the line was Carl Edwards with his best career finish on a road course (third) after starting 33rd. Kyle Busch, who looked to be the car to beat at one point, finished fourth. Greg Biffle rounded out the top five.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished sixth, followed by outside polesitter Kurt Busch. Max Papis, in the Germain Racing No. 13 finished a career-best eighth on Monday, followed by Clint Bowyer in ninth. Bowyer started way back in 38th position. Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10.
The most memorable moment in this race was on lap 63, when Kasey Kahne got loose in turn 9. He saved it, but nudged the No. 77 of Sam Hornish Jr. in the process. Hornish went off at the exit of turn 9 and nailed the tire barrier. This caused the Mobil 1 Dodge to rebound across the track, collecting Gordon and Jeff Burton in the process. Andy Lally, David Ragan and Joey Logano also suffered damage in the crash. The wreck caused a 19-minute red flag to clean up the track and re-align the tire barrier.
Race to the Chase (Top 12)
Stewart’s victory on Sunday and the troubles for the Hendrick Motorsports cars allowed Stewart to expand his points lead to a season-high 260 points over Jimmie Johnson. Johnson, who started from his first career road-course pole, never really recovered from an early spin in turn 1. He eventually came home in 12th.
Gordon was the victim of circumstance on the lap 63 crash. Gordon could not avoid the spinning No. 77 and spun into the Armco. This ended his day and resulted in a 37th-place finish. Kurt Busch had a good run on Sunday, riding in the top 10 for the entire race, eventually finishing seventh. However, he is now 482 points behind Stewart.
Hamlin maintained his fifth spot in the standings with a 10th-place finish on Sunday. Just 17 points behind Hamlin is Edwards, who came all the way up from 33rd position to finish third. Montoya is up one place to seventh after a consistent run to finish sixth. Montoya displaces Kahne. The Infineon winner had a quiet day. Outside of the contact with Hornish Jr., he was almost invisible on Monday on the way to a 17th-place finish.
Ryan Newman maintained the ninth position in points on Monday, but had a tough race. The car just simply was not that good. Newman eventually finished 21st. Greg Biffle rises up two positions from the Chase bubble to 10th after a strong run to fifth. Mark Martin’s team simply could not fix the handle on the CarQuest/Kellogg’s Chevrolet all weekend. After qualifying a dismal 28th, Martin stayed in the 20s for most of the race before finishing 23rd. This dropped Martin one place to 11th. Matt Kenseth rounds out the top 12. Kyle Busch is the first contender outside of the top 12, 58 points behind Kenseth.
Around the 35th-Place Cutoff
For the Front Row Motorsports No. 34 team, the race barely even started before problems started. A leak forced the team to the garage after only a few laps. Andretti dropped six laps down as a result. However, due to attrition, John Andretti eventually rebounded to finish in 30th.
This gave Scott Speed an opportunity to gain some ground in the standings. During the race, Speed kept his No. 82 clean, and also collected five bonus points for leading the race through off-sequence pitting. This sequence resulted in Speed pitting from the lead right after the red flag, dropping him close to the back of the lead lap. From there, Speed held his ground and came home in 22nd. This allows the No. 82 to gain some ground on the No. 34 team. The margin is now 142 points between 35th and 36th.
The top finishing team around or below the cutoff was the part-time No. 13 GEICO Toyota driven by Papis. Papis had a strong car on Monday, gradually moving up through the field and briefly cracking the top five. Although he eventually fell back to an eighth-place finish, it is by far the best run of the year for the Germain Racing No. 13.
Afterwards, when asked to describe the difference between NASCAR and Formula 1, where Papis briefly competed in 1995 for the Footwork team, Papis pulled no punches.
“I did not enjoy [being in F1],” Papis said. “[There is a] lack of respect for the human being there.”