Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Comeback kids Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon: 1-2 in Kansas 400, after ragged start to the chase

  Tony Stewart celebrating....finally. After a cold, cold few weeks, he may be back in form (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, after struggling through the first two weeks of the title chase, finally got back in championship gear here Sunday and picked up a little ground on NASCAR tour leader Mark Martin with a one-two finish in the Kansas 400, on a beautiful fall afternoon in front of a crowd announced at 100,000.
   Since his victory at Watkins Glen in early August Stewart has struggled, so winning here was a significant comeback. He dominated the 26-race regular season but was outrun at Loudon, N.H., and Dover, Del. This time he finished some 10 car lengths ahead of Gordon, in taking his fourth win of the season.
   Gordon too has struggled, and he wasn't optimistic in the first laps of this race. "I was so mad…." Gordon said.
   Ten of the top 11 finishers are title challengers. But Brian Vickers blew an engine and finished 37th, all but ending his title bid. And Ryan Newman had a weak run, finishing 22nd.
   However for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle the sunny afternoon was a real downer. Earnhardt, finally, had one of the best cars in the field, led early, looked strong, then had a bad pit stop, lost ground, and then his engine broke, and he wound up 36th.
   Mark Martin is still atop the standings, 18 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson, 51 points ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya, 67 points ahead of Stewart, 91 points ahead of Kurt Busch, 99 points ahead of Denny Hamlin, 103 points ahead of Gordon, 114 points ahead of Biffle, 164 points ahead of Newman, 165 points ahead of Carl Edwards, 190 points ahead of Kasey Kahne, and 250 points ahead of Brian Vickers.
   So after three races of the 10-race, 10-week chase, Vickers, Kahne, Edwards and Newman appear down for the count.
   But Biffle was the day's big surprise, and if he and crew chief Greg Erwin have really found something, they could be getting back into contention, considering some of their best tracks are yet to be run.
   Biffle late in the three-hour race had the car to beat, but on the last round of pit stops, with 30 laps to go in the 267-lapper at this 1-1/2-mile track, he called for a four-tire stop, while Stewart took only two tires and thus grabbed the lead for the final restart.
    Biffle, who hasn't won in over a year now, looked on the positive side: "It felt good to run back up front again," Biffle said. "It was quite a different setup than we've had, so I didn't know what to expect. But this feels good, because company-wide (all the Roush teams) we did good.
   "I felt back at the end. I wanted to take four tires at the end and the crew chief wanted to take two, and we shouldn't have taken four."
   That stop, while Stewart took only two, dropped Biffle from the lead, going into the last round of stops, under caution, with 45 miles to go, to fourth. And Biffle couldn't make it back to the point.
   Stewart, with the lead for the final restart, took off fast and wasn't really challenged over the last 20 laps, though Gordon was trying.
    "It was definitely a strong finish, but we certainly struggled at the start of the race, and I was a bear on the radio because I was so upset," Gordon said. "To come back to finish second is a great, great day for us. When they dropped the green, I thought we were going to get lapped."
    That two-tire call at the end? "You don't question Darian," Stewart said of his crew chief's late-race gamble.
   "This helps pick us back up," Darian Grubb, Stewart's crew chief, said. "We haven't had the finishes we've wanted the last couple of weeks."
   Johnson, ninth, hangs onto second in the Sprint Cup standings. But down the stretch he didn't have as much of a car as he wanted, and he wound up ninth.  "Something happened," Johnson said. "The car had been so fast before. But at the end it was so edgy. I just didn't have the speed I had earlier."
    Martin gained a few points on Johnson, but lost to others with his seventh place run. "But we've still got seven races to go, so no point in getting jacked up about it," Martin said.
   "We just didn't quite have the car nailed down, like some of the guys. It was actually a very good result, based on missing it. That's the most we've missed it in a while. I've been off this month and just finished 25th; so to finish seventh, I'm proud of our team.
   "We did peak at the end of the race. Our car was probably the strongest on the last run."



   When Tony Stewart crosses the finish line, Jeff Gordon is just a distant blur (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   The results of Race Three of the 10-race Sprint Cup championship, at Kansas City, Kansas


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com