<
>

With Said on standby, Stewart delivers win

8/15/2004

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Tony Stewart knew he was in trouble
shortly after the start of the race, but overcame an upset stomach
to win Sunday at Watkins Glen International.

"It started about the 15th or 17th lap,'' he said. "It got
better toward the end but I still don't feel well.''

Stewart went back to his hauler as soon as he exited the car
after winning the Sirius at the Glen. He was driven back to his
motor coach in a golf cart to change his uniform and attempt to
recover.

That delayed his celebration in victory lane, marking the third
straight week that has happened in NASCAR. Jimmie Johnson was fined
$10,000 for violating protocol two weeks ago at Pocono by obscuring
the product of a rival sponsor with a placard of his own.

Last week, Jeff Gordon stayed on the track at Indianapolis until
the TV coverage ended. He said he was overcome by the emotion of
his victory in the Brickyard 400, apologized and was not punished.

Asked if he really went back to his motorhome because he was
playing the same game, Stewart, a practical joker, smiled broadly.

"No, I just wanted to go back and brush my hair and look good
for you guys,'' he said.

The team had road-course ace Boris Said standing by, but
released him after the final pit stop. Stewart realized with about
12 laps to go that he was going to finish, although he said that
distance seemed like an eternity.

His pain eased somewhat after he was given something to drink,
and Stewart said he wanted to stay providing a lack of
concentration didn't drastically reduce his lap times.

He also said word during the race that he also had leg cramps
was not accurate and that he felt it was important to stay in the
car with victory in the offing for his team.

"These guys have never given up on me, no matter what has
happened, and I'll never give up on them,'' he explained. "I
wasn't going to take a win away from them.

"It's hard to say how close you are. Either you're in or you're
out. But there's no substitute for being in the lead, that's for
sure.''

It was the second win for Stewart in the race, one of two
road-course events each year on the NASCAR Nextel Cup circuit. He
has three victories in that discipline.

The 2002 series and Watkins Glen champion also got his second
win of the season and the 19th of his career.

Stewart, who started fourth after qualifying was canceled
because of a wet track and the field was set by car-owner points,
led 46 of 90 laps on the 11-turn serpentine layout. His Chevrolet
beat that of road-course star Ron Fellows by 1.517 seconds.

"We had to work hard, but I just didn't have enough left for
Tony after that last caution,'' Fellows said. "They gave me
everything I needed in a car, but I'm disappointed.

"Obviously, we were second best.''

Stewart made sure of that, keeping Fellows well behind him in
the closing laps. Finally, he let up and Fellows closed the gap but
had used up his car in moving from the back of the field to the
front.

"He wasn't going to get by us,'' Stewart said.

Finishing third in the $4.6 million race was Mark Martin in a
Ford, followed by Casey Mears in a Dodge, and the Chevy of Dale
Earnhardt Jr.

Polesitter Johnson blew an engine for the second week in a row
but held the top spot by 40 points because teammate Gordon had a
transmission problem late in the race. Gordon finished 21st and
Johnson 40th.

The series standings will be reset after four more races to
five-point intervals among the top-10 drivers. They alone will be
eligible to run for the championship over the last 10 of 36 races.

"I just made a mistake,'' Johnson said. "We tried a little
different shifter. I came from second trying to hit third and fell
right into first.''

Gordon slowed dramatically near the end to keep running. But he
didn't use the mechanical problem as an excuse.

"We had a good car, but we didn't have enough car for Tony
today,'' he said.

Stewart showed his muscle right from the start. Gordon passed
Johnson on the second lap, but Stewart got by both of them for the
lead before they got back to the line. Stewart went to the lead for
the final time by passing Mears on the 76th lap.

Stewart averaged 92.249 mph in a race slowed five times by 11
laps of caution. There were 13 lead changes among nine drivers.

Completing the top 10 were Kevin Harvick, Jeremy Mayfield, Ricky
Rudd, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch.

Defending race champion Robby Gordon wound up 16th.

Earnhardt remained third and Stewart fourth in the standings.
They were followed by Kenseth, Elliott Sadler, Busch and Harvick.
Bobby Lebonte is ninth, and Mayfield the last of the top 10 in
points.