Stewart not amused by Knaus' tactics

Updated: October 24, 2005, 12:52 AM ET
Associated Press

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- The mind games started way before Sunday.

With Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson tied for the lead in the Nextel Cup standings and just five races remaining, Johnson's crew chief decided to have some fun, talking over his radio in practice about how Johnson's car was better and how he could beat Stewart.

Stewart's crew heard what Chad Knaus said, and was less than amused.

"I wouldn't do it to Jimmie," Stewart said, despite characterizing the remarks as similar to ones he made as a sprint car racer, hoping to get in competitors' heads.

"It's like being inside a kindergarten room listening to it," Stewart said.

Johnson said he wasn't aware of what Knaus had said, but surmised that the comments were made more to pump up his team than to try and get Stewart off his game.

"Being positive and trying to pump the team, stuff gets said on the radio like we've got a better car or we've got those guys frustrated," he said.

"It's stuff that takes place all the time," he continued. " … it's your guys' job to twist it and turn it and find something to write about and have fun with it."

Later, Johnson asked -- and was told -- what Knaus was overheard saying.

"If we can run with them [in practice] and get them thinking about us or talking about us, I guess we're doing our job," he said.

Glad to be going
Mark Martin came to Martinsville this weekend claiming to hate the place with a passion, in spite of his two victories here. He crashed in practice on Saturday, forcing him to a backup car, and left liking it even less Sunday.

And that was after he predicted he would win the Subway 500.

Early in the race, Martin uncharacteristically nudged Mike Wallace out of his way in the first turn, bringing out a caution that prevented him from being lapped by Tony Stewart. Later, with his right front brakes on fire, he pitted under caution even before pit road was open, which normally would draw a penalty putting him at the back end of the lead lap. Instead, he took his Roush Racing Ford to the garage.

When he finally emerged, he was 31 laps down and on his way to finishing 34th.

"We'll just keep fighting," said Martin, who fell to seventh in the Chase standings. "I'm charged up. I'm excited. After a weekend of my race team fighting like they fought, we've got four more races so we're going to see if we can win some."

Oh, and about that prediction?

"See if Mr. Pessimist ever predicts another win," he said.

Parting gift
Rusty Wallace, a seven-time winner at Martinsville who is retiring, was given a special grandfather clock by the track before the race.

The clock is the unique trophy given to all winners in NASCAR's top series at the speedway, and track president Clay Campbell presented Wallace with a "Martinsville Edition," which listed all seven of Wallace's victories on the clock pendulum.

Campbell also told Wallace the gift would be altered if Wallace were to win, and Wallace was running fifth heading into a restart with 19 laps left when he crashed.

He wound up 19th.

"Lapped cars were horrible all day long," he said. "They were just racing their brains out, man, just all trying to get that lucky dog. That's all it was and it just caused a lot of problems for a lot of people and I ended up getting the short end of the stick on this deal. … It's a tough day. It's hard to take that one."

The lucky dog is the lapped driver closest to the lead lap when each caution comes out. He is allowed to drive around and go to the tail end of the lead lap.

Unlucky Rudd
Ricky Rudd, of Chesapeake, Va., started second and seemed to have a car equal to Stewart's until he was in the wrong place at the wrong time on lap 174.

Having closed a big deficit on the leader and approaching his rear bumper, Rudd's day took a dramatic turn for the worse when Scott Riggs hit Mike Bliss, who slammed into the wall off in the fourth turn. On the rebound, Bliss' car hit Sterling Marlin's, and he was pushed into the line of Rudd, who had moved inside hoping to avoid getting collected.

He failed, Marlin's car hitting him hard, and Rudd headed for pit road. He drew a penalty for exiting the track too fast, then made numerous pit stops for repairs.

By the time he got back to racing, he was 27th on the grid.

Later, running 21st when the race restarted on lap No. 348, Rudd brought out the 14th caution of the race when he spun in the first and second turns, then headed for the pits.

He still rallied to finish 11th.

"I can't believe this car, as torn up and as bad as it was, it kept going," Rudd said of his Ford, owned by Wood Brothers Racing. "[The accident] knocked the steering wheel out of my hand and knocked the front end out of alignment, but it kept going."

Pit stops
Jamie McMurray, who finished seventh, moved from 14th to 11th in the point standings. The No. 11 finisher at the end of the season gets a $1 million bonus. … Kurt Busch started 14th, but got stuck in the outside lane by himself at the start and faded to 32nd when no cars would let him back in line. The same thing happened to Elliott Sadler, who went from ninth to 28th. Busch finished sixth, Sadler 29th. … Jimmy Spencer became the first driver lapped in the race. It happened on the 17th lap.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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