It’s not how many laps you lead in the race, but which laps you lead that determines the winner.Ã‚Â Tony Stewart led only 2 laps to win the Sylvania 300 in on Sunday and proved that the only important lap to lead is the last one.Ã‚Â This was the fewest laps Stewart has ever led while winning a race, his previous low score was 6.Ã‚Â Running the last 71 laps on a single tank of fuel also showed that Stewart is becoming the master of fuel mileage in the current Sprint Cup cars.Ã‚Â With a fuel mileage win in Chicago just 6 days prior to this win, Stewart is making it look easy making his car go fast, and saving on fuel at the same time.
The reversal of fortune over last years Chase race in New Hampshire where Stewart ran out of gas and Clint Bowyer passed for the win was not lost on Tony and crew chief Darian Grubb.
“If that’s not a flip-flop from last year, I don’t know what is,” Stewart radioed to crew chief Darian Grubb after crossing the finish line.
“Man, what a way to win it.Ã‚Â Such an irony from last year where we ran out gas coming to the white.Ã‚Â You hate to see anybody lose that way, but you’ll take a win any way you can get it right now.”
“I saw (Bowyer) slow down the back stretch and thought ‘Oh no, You’re kidding me’Ã‚Â I know exactly how he feels right now.”
“I planned it for some 280 laps” Stewart joked.Ã‚Â “I knew he was going to run out of fuel right at that moment.”
“Clint was one of the first guys on pit road to get to me and congratulate me.Ã‚Â He’s thinking the same thing – just how ironic it was that the roles were reversed.”
Clint Bowyer ended up finishing a disappointing 26th.
Brad Kesolowski’s momentum and wild card entry into the chase are not showing any signs of slowing down.Ã‚Â 10 weeks ago when NASCAR left this track Kesolowski was 23rd in points and not looking like he had any shot of getting into the chase, a point that is not lost on the 27 year old driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge.
“It’s funny, because 10 races ago, we left Loudon here 23rd in points,” Keselowski said. “Who’d have ever thought we’d be third in 10 weeks? It’s been a good road to travel down the last few weeks, and today was no exception.”
“We weren’t the fastest car — I’d be lying if I tried to tell you we were — but we made good adjustments to our car, got it to where it was a good, solid top-10 car and drove up to fourth or fifth there with 100 to go, 80 to go, whatever that was. … All in all, I felt like we earned the majority of our good fortune.”
The third place finisher, Greg Biffle, made a hard fought effort to get there.Ã‚Â After tangling with 5 time champion Jimmie Johnson earlier in the race, Biffle continued his hard charge right to the end of the race.Ã‚Â Not having a chance to win the championship has put a different kind of motivation in the forefront of Biffle’s mind.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My role being a non-Chase guy is to try to win the last eight (races) that are left,Ã¢â‚¬Â Biffle said.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had some of the bad luck he experienced mid season return to him in Loudon.Ã‚Â Although NHMS is not a track where he has done particularly well in the past, Earnhardt was frustrated that he and his team did not get the position he felt they all deserved.
“I had an awesome car all day,” Earnhardt said. “Just pretty frustrating. I want to win here. We’ve been so good here in a lot of races and would like to win. But you’ve got to get up front, and we really couldn’t accomplish that all day long. We had a good, quick car and I am proud of how we worked on it. Happy about what my guys did. The car they brought and how they worked on the car, everything was seemingly going as planned until we got caught a lap down with Landon’s flat tire then we had a couple flats ourselves that cost us a couple more spots there. It’s frustrating, but I was happy with how the car was driving. As a driver, we haven’t had that all year.”
“We’ll take it right now. It could be worse,” Earnhardt said. “We could be sitting in Victory Lane, but we could be out of the Chase all together. I think having two flat tires, we got pretty lucky today to get home in the top 20.”
Jr was not the only chaser who’s luck ran out in Loudon.Ã‚Â Ryan Newman, who started the race from the pole, also had late race tire issues that scuttled his shot at a decent finish.Ã‚Â After winning the race here in July and setting the pace for the field on the green flag drop, Newman was looking at a top 10 finish when he had a tire go down in the ;ate stages of the race.
“We just had a tough day,” Newman said. “We had a couple of slow pit stops, and then we had a tire go down at the end. It was just a disappointing day for us. We just didn’t capitalize on what we could have, and today was a good day to do that, and we didn’t do it. Our team, we know we can do it. We’ve done it before. Going to Dover, we need to improve from where we were in the spring, and I think we can do that.”
Denny Hamlin, who was 12th in points entering the race, looked like he was going out for redemption from his 31st place finish in Chicago.Ã‚Â He was running in 6th when he was forced to pit for fuel with only 3 laps to go.Ã‚Â The stop ended up costing him 23 positions on the track giving his a 29th place finish, the lowest position finish of all the chasers for the second week in a row.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We thought we were good, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just strategy racing nowadays,Ã¢â‚¬Â Hamlin said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We just came up short right there. The only thing I can think of is we were on a little bit of a cleaner racetrack that last run, but that was the worst fuel mileage we got all day, and I was backing my corner up quite a bit.”
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Either we werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t getting the fuel mileage we thought or we didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get it full or I just used too much. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to work through it. Another tough day for us, but weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re just figuring out what we need to do to be a little bit more competitive.Ã¢â‚¬Â