Talladega: Tony Stewart race report

TALLADEGA GIVETH AND TAKETH AWAY FROM STEWART After Winning Saturday, Crash Ends Potential Win on Sunday Tony Stewart was ready to put an exclamation point on what had been a dominant weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway by winning Sunday's ...

Talladega: Tony Stewart race report

TALLADEGA GIVETH AND TAKETH AWAY FROM STEWART
After Winning Saturday, Crash Ends Potential Win on Sunday

Tony Stewart was ready to put an exclamation point on what had been a dominant weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway by winning Sunday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

The driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) started on the outside of row one and led seven times for a race-high 61 laps, and even though a cut right-front tire sent his car scraping along the outside retaining wall in turns one and two on lap 143, Stewart rallied from 31st to again challenge for the win.

But his run came undone when Stewart became involved in a multi-car accident on lap 174 that ended his race 14 laps short of the scheduled 188-lap distance.

"I just went to the second lane there -- and it was there for a short amount of time -- and I thought we were all right, but the closer we got to turn one, the smaller that hole got," said Stewart, who finished 38th and endured his second DNF (Did Not Finish) of the 2008 season. "I was as close to Bobby (Labonte) as I could get and the hole closed up. It's just what happens late in these races. If it was my fault, I'm sorry. By looking at the video, though, I don't feel like I did anything wrong, really."

Had Stewart been able to avoid the six-car melee, he might have had the chance to cap a race weekend that began in victory lane with a return trip to the winner's circle.

On Friday, Stewart won the pole for the NASCAR Nationwide Series race, and he and his crew were honored in victory lane. On Saturday, Stewart won the Nationwide Series race to end up in the same spot they were 24 hours earlier. And then on Sunday, Stewart appeared ready to make a third trip to Talladega's winner's circle as his Home Depot Toyota led lap after lap of the Aaron's 499.

"I didn't think (my car) was as good as the 20 was today," said race winner Kyle Busch, Stewart's teammate at JGR, "but this Toyota had enough horsepower in it to power us to the win."

As Stewart's crew tore away the car's crumpled sheet metal and figured out a way to roll the battered machine onto the team transporter for its trip back to JGR headquarters in Huntersville, N.C., the two-time Sprint Cup champion reflected on what had been an impressive performance.

"We had a great day going," Stewart said. "We were really in good shape with this Home Depot car until I had the right-front go down and then I got us in the back. Late in the race where there's 15 laps to go, you can't just sit there. You've got to go do what you can to get those spots back."

-credit: jgr

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