Tony Stewart almost beat himself at the Watkins Glen NASCAR Nextel Cup road race on Sunday, but not quite. Leading, ahead of Jeff Gordon, with about 50 laps to go, Stewart wheel-hoped his Home Depot Chevrolet entering turn 1 and spun off the course. By the time he’d rejoined the field, he was 19th.
He won the race.
He got lucky. After working his way through the field, he was second to Gordon with two laps remaining.
And then Gordon spun going into turn 1.
So, Stewart won. Gordon finished 8th.
But to that point, it was a duel of the road racing titans. The only NASCAR Nextel Cup driver with more road course wins than Stewart is Gordon. Stewart and Gordon both lead much of the race.
If you don’t think that Tony Stewart has a complete understanding of his competition, here’s what he had to say after the race: "I saw Jeff lose it just like I lost it. I had to keep fighting back. Jeff has won four championships and 79 races. He’s the last guy you expect to have a problem like that."
Did you notice that Mr. Stewart knows exactly how many races Jeff Gordon has won?
Second place went to Denny Hamlin, third to Jimmy Stewart, and fourth to Ron Fellows, who spends most of his time road racing Corvettes and Cadillac CTSs. Fifth went to Robbie Gordon, who can probably use the prize money to pay the fine NASCAR imposed upon him following last week’s Busch Series race.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would have to be given the day’s hard luck award. He was in the top five throughout the day, with a real chance of winning, when the engine on his DEI Chevrolet let go. At the time, he was running third.
This is the fourth engine failure for Earnhardt this year, each of which has given him a DNF. It becomes increasingly likely that Junior will not make the Chase, even though the cut-off has been expanded to the top twelve. No wonder he decided to drive somewhere else.
He entered the race 13th in points, slightly behind Kurt Busch. He finished the race next to last. This did not help his points situation, and one can understand why he would be anxious to get a ride where the car is as reliable as the driver. He’s now 14th in points, 100 behind Kurt Busch, who remains twelfth in points.
After a yellow flag with 15 laps to go, the race was red flagged when the field wrecked on the restart. Juan Pablo Montoya, cutting to the inside of a corner, was rear-ended by Martin Truax, which sent Montoya into Kevin Harvick. On the rebound, Montoya was hit by Jeff Burton. The debris forced a red flag for almost half an hour.
The race also had comic relief.
During the red flag lull, a fan jumped the guardrail surrounding the course and sprinted to Matt Kenseth’s car to get his autograph. Kenseth politely declined, and the fan was escorted from the track.
Poor guy missed a great finish.