NASCAR: Stewart wins fifth Nationwide race
By Mike Harris
LOUDON, N.H. ó Tony Stewart isn’t running many races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this series, so he’s making the ones he does drive in count.
The two-time Sprint Cup champion, who hasn’t been having much luck and has no wins in the top stock car series this season, drove away Saturday with his fifth victory in seven Nationwide starts in 2008.
Stewart got track position, restarting third after taking just two tires during his final pit stop on lap 129 of the 200-lap event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He took the lead on lap 136 from fellow Cup star Carl Edwards on lap 136 and led the rest of the way.
Teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch finished second and third.
The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota that Stewart drove has won eight of 17 races this season, including all five by Stewart and one each by Hamlin, Busch and heralded rookie Joey Logano. Busch also has two wins in his No. 18 entry and another in the Braun Racing car already this season.
But this one was special for crew chief Dave Rogers, who grew up in Marshfield, Vt., about 125 miles from here.
It was Rogers who made the two-tire call that Stewart credited with putting him in position to win.
“I look up and they’re all coming,” Rogers said of the last pit stop for the leaders. “It was a parking lot and I knew if we got back in traffic, we would never make it to the front. This is a track position race.”
Stewart gave most of the credit for the victory, his seventh in the series formerly known as Busch, to Rogers, who started with the Gibbs team as an engineer on Stewart’s No. 20 Cup car.
“That last stop is what won the race for us,” Stewart said. “To get track position and be able to stay up front and not have to overdrive the car or abuse the tires was the key to the win.”
Stewart is the 22nd different winner in 22 Nationwide-Busch races on the 1.058-mile New Hampshire oval.
The race ended under caution after Greg Biffle, racing side-by-side with Brad Keselowski for 10th place, appeared to touch the track apron and lose control, sliding hard into the outside wall. Biffle wound up 19th.
Former series champions Kevin Harvick and Edwards finished fourth and fifth, followed by David Ragan, David Reutimann and Mike Bliss.
“It’s pretty spectacular,” Edwards said about the No. 20 car. “Those guys are doing a great job. There are ups and downs in this sport and, right now, they’re on the up side and we’ve just got to look at what they’re doing and emulate them and try to get them by the end of the season.”
Stewart, 11th in the Cup standings, and the rest of the Cup drivers will race on the same track Sunday in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301.