Tony Stewart wins for 5th time at Watkins GlenPublished 8:15am Tuesday, August 11, 2009
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Tony Stewart’s dream season continued unabated in Monday’s rain-delayed Heluva Good! at the Glen.
After a major adjustment early in the race got Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet handling the way the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader wanted, Stewart held off Marcos Ambrose during a 17-lap run to the finish and crossed the finish line 2.969 seconds ahead of the Australian road-course ace.
The victory was Stewart’s fifth at Watkins Glen International, his third of the season and the 36th of his Cup career. Stewart opened his lead in the series standings to 260 points over polesitter Jimmie Johnson, who finished 12th after spinning off the course in Turn 1 late in the race.
The second-place finish was Ambrose’s series-best to date, improving by one position over his results at the Glen last year and at Infineon Raceway in June. Carl Edwards came home third after a strategic run from the 33rd starting position.
Kyle Busch ran fourth, and though he remained 13th in the standings, he trimmed his deficit in points to 12th position – now occupied by Monday’s 14th-place finisher Matt Kenseth – from 101 to 58 points with four races remaining before the field for the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is set Sept. 12 at Richmond.
From Stewart’s point of view, making changes to the car under caution on Lap 19 was a critical juncture in the race.
“Our crew did an awesome job on the pit stop,” said Stewart, who led the last 24 laps after out-braking Busch into Turn 1 after a restart on Lap 67 of 90. “We had asked for a lot of changes there – and a lot of lengthy changes. Our guys did a great job of getting us in and out of the pits there, and we never lost very much track position, so we were able to make it up. We had a fast car today.”
Stewart’s car was fast enough to withstand pressure from Ambrose, who dogged Stewart until the final two laps, when the driver of the No. 47 Toyota backed off to conserve fuel.
“I was watching him,” said Stewart, who will clinch a spot in the Chase when he takes the green flag Sunday at Michigan. “There were parts of the track where we were stronger than he was and parts where he was stronger than us. But I think we were stronger in the parts of the track that we needed to be to hold him off, if he got any closer.”
Ambrose said the setup of his car wasn’t quite right for a track that became hotter and slicker on Monday, after rain on Sunday washed the rubber from the racing surface.
Jeff Gordon, third in the standings, took a major hit in points after taking a major hit on the racetrack. After contact with Sam Hornish Jr.’s No. 77 Dodge bounced off the tire barrier at the exit of Turn 5 and back across the track into Gordon’s No. 24, ending the race for both drivers on Lap 63.
Gordon finished 37th, and though he retained third place in the series standings, he fell 342 points behind Stewart.
The accident, which also involved Jeff Burton, Andy Lally and Joey Logano, caused a 19-minute, 35-second stoppage while track workers cleaned debris from the crash.