Faulty alternator doesn't slow Stewart
Faced with a problem right at the end of a race he dominated, Stewart simply snookered the opposition on the final two restarts and cruised to his fifth victory in seven races. And his dominant performance Sunday at Watkins Glen International padded his lead in the NASCAR Nextel Cup standings.
Still, he had to hope he had enough juice left after a late caution forced two extra laps. Stewart radioed in that he had an alternator problem, forcing him to shut off some systems and switch to a backup battery. Then he sprinted away from Robby Gordon on the final restart.
(unofficial through Sept. 4)
|2. (+1)||Greg Biffle||-209|
|3. (-1)||Jimmie Johnson||-258|
|6. (+1)||Kurt Busch||-456|
|7. (-1)||Jeremy Mayfield||-497|
|9. (+2)||Matt Kenseth||-631|
|10. (+2)||Jamie McMurray||-641|
"The hard thing is Robby Gordon is really good getting into turn one," Stewart said. "The big thing was to get a good restart and not be concerned with him."
Stewart did just that, leaving Gordon as nothing more than a valiant competitor who charged from his 39th starting spot all the way to Stewart's rear bumper with two laps to go. But Stewart made him slow down just before the restart.
"He got away because he stabbed the brakes then took off," Gordon said. "He's a great racer, but second is just first loser."
Stewart used the same tactic to get away from Boris Said on the 76th lap.
"I had great restarts all day, but Tony got me and I got bogged down," explained Said, who quickly lost the second spot to Gordon.
Scott Pruett, who finished fourth, was even more impressed.
"They could have taken 10 more restarts," he said. "We weren't going to catch him."
Stewart has become a master of restarts, resembling the late Dale Earnhardt when he has the lead.
"The only time anybody could get close to us was on the restarts," Stewart said. "But this thing really went fast today. We had an absolutely flawless day other than the alternator.
"I don't know what we need to do to keep this thing going, but we've got to."
Crew chief Greg Zipadelli said hard work and a lack of complacency has the team on its incredible roll. He said he has been reminding the team not to let up.
"This is like a fantasy. I hope it lasts," Zipadelli said. "Smoke has been just fired up. I haven't seen him this focused in the seven years I've been around him."
The 24th victory of the Indiana driver's career came a week after he won for the first time at his beloved Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The first-place finish here gave Stewart a 105-point lead over Jimmie Johnson, who finished fifth.
After winning, Stewart stopped at the flagstand, took the checker and drove around the track to the cheers of the crowd. But he didn't climb the catch fencing as he had after his three most recent wins.
"This place really isn't conducive to fence climbing," he said. "I'm convinced that I'm going to fall off one day and crack my head open."
Now he heads back to his hometown, Columbus, Ind., where the Hoosiers are honoring his Indianapolis victory with a parade Monday. Stewart, always looking to utter a good quip, had one for the celebration.
"I'm just scared that the kids are going be to throwing darts at me," said Stewart, who for most of his career has been booed but now is a fan favorite. "I'm feeling the love now. It's a lot better than dodging grenades."
Stewart won the $4.6 million Sirius Satellite Radio at The Glen for the second year in a row. It was the fifth road-course win for Stewart in five years. He won in June on the only other NASCAR road course -- the serpentine layout in Sonoma, Calif.
It was his third win on this 2.45-mile track known as New York's Thunder Road. He started on the pole because rain Saturday prevented the completion of qualifying and forced NASCAR to set most of the 43-car field on car-owner points. Stewart was easily the fastest driver of those who took qualifying laps before the rain came.
In the race, his Chevrolet led a record 83 of 92 laps and beat the Chevy of Gordon by 1.927 seconds on the 11-turn track that snakes through the hills south of Seneca Lake.
Stewart is virtually assured of being no worse than third when NASCAR resets the standings at five-point intervals for the top-10 drivers after four more races. Then the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup begins Sept. 18 at New Hampshire International Speedway, where the 2002 Cup series champion won last month.
He and 38th-place finisher Greg Biffle share the series lead with five wins apiece.
Road-racing specialist Said finished third in a Chevy, followed by the Dodge of road racer Scott Pruett and Johnson's Chevy.
The winner averaged 86.804 mph in a race slowed seven times by 14 caution laps. There were nine lead changes among seven drivers.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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