Stewart Gets First 2007 Win At Chicagoland

7/15/07, Joliet, IL – Tony Stewart took control the final quarter of the USG Sheetrock 400 to win at Chicagoland Speedway Sunday afternoon. Stewart in the Home Depot Joe Gibbs Chevrolet comfortably held off Roush-Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards for the win.

Who would have thought that the trio Hanson would show up to a NASCAR race? Well, the teenage heartthrobs from Tulsa did a fine job singing the national anthem in a cappella. Under terrific summer weather, an estimated 80,000 NASCAR fans turned out to enjoy a day at the races.

Polesitter Casey Mears driving the National Guard/GMAC Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet led the field with Martin Truex, Jr. in the Bass Pro Shops/Tracker DEI Chevrolet alongside. Four cars dropped to the rear of the field. The four that fell back were, #01 of Mark Martin and the #19 of Elliott Sadler due to changing to back-up cars after crashes in practice and the #2 of Kurt Busch and the #15 of Paul Menard for engine charges.

Casey Mears led the field to the green flag as the near capacity crowd cheered for their favorites. Mears led the first lap as Martin Truex, Jr. who started alongside followed. On lap 4 Paul Menard received the black flag for a possible oil leak as his car was smoking. Truex passed Mears for the lead on lap 5 while 2 laps later Menard came in with smoke billowing under the hood of the Menards DEI Chevrolet?s hood. The crew opened the hood and discovered the engine compartment on fire, the fire crew quickly put out the fire and the DEI crew dejectedly pushed the day-glo yellow Chevy behind the wall.

Lap 18 saw Jimmie Johnson on the move as he passed Mears and took aim for Truex. On the next lap Johnson passed Truex for the lead. Johnson started to increase his lead as he had about a one-second lead on lap 37. Two laps later the lead was 1.5 seconds. Matt Kenseth who started 10th moved up to the top 5 as Johnson continued to lead.

On lap 44 David Reutimann blows an engine on his Burger King Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Reutimann pits but the #00 is quickly escorted behind the wall. On lap 47 green flag pitstops begin as several of the slower cars come in. The following lap Carl Edwards and his teammate Kenseth come in for service. All cars pit after cycling through green flag stops with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kevin Harvick leading laps in that timeframe. On lap 53 after everybody had pitted, Jimmie Johnson leads over Truex, Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Mears.

On lap 60 the #66 Comcast/Best Buy Haas-CNC Chevrolet of Jeff Green spins in turn two. Green appeared to turn hard left to avoid making contact the Michael Waltrip NAPA Toyota who was on the outside of Green.

The green flag returned on lap 64 with Harvik in the Shell Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet leading Reed Sorensen in the Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge who did not pit. Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon fill out the top 5. Harvick who won yesterday?s NASCAR Busch Series race here opened up a 2.5 second lead. The lead increases to 3.8 as Harvick appears to be in control. Kasey Kahne appeared to be having a dismal race as he motors at the rear of the field. This is not one of Kahne?s better weekends.

Reed Sorenson who?s no pit strategy found himself running in the top-10 makes a green flag pit stop on lap 109. For this to work the rest of the field also put pit under green. Tony Stewart inherits the lead from Harvick as he ducks onto pit road for his scheduled stop. Many of the top-10 made their pit stops during laps 113-115. Kyle Busch took the lead on lap 115 after Clint Bowyer made his pit stop however, Harvick found himself back in the lead after green flag stops cycled through for the second time. Bad news for Clint Bowyer as he served a pass-through penalty on lap 118 due to speeding on pit road. Robby Gordon who was battling handling problems in his Jim Beam Ford was also penalized for hitting the commitment cone.

Jimmie Johnson passed Harvick for the lead on lap 120. At the halfway point Johnson continued to lead as Johnson was holding his own in second, Tony Stewart started to look stronger. Lap 144 there were only 17 cars on the lead lap. The pace was quick all day at Chicagoland Speedway.

Surprisingly Paul Menard returned to race on lap 150. Last week?s winner at Daytona, Jamie McMurray looked like he had a tire go down and hit the wall. McMurray was able to limp to the pits and returned to the race. Mc Murray remarked, I got into the wall about 30 laps before that, and knocked the fender in so the car got real tight I kind of had to commit to the high side, and I got back into the wall the corner just before that, and I knew that I had a tire down, so I was trying to get slowed down, but I just couldn?t get it slowed down enough. Really hit the wall, the tire came apart and it ripped the oil line and stuff off, so we?e going to have to get it repaired so we can get it back out and run around and get as many points as we can.?

Everybody came in on lap 155 as most of the front runners took four tires and fuel. Martin Truex Jr. loses a tire, but a crewman fetches it before he leaves.

David Stremme received the black flag for not being in line during the restart, his car was three-wide while taking the green
Lap 164 Robby Gordon went high going into turn two, got loose and did a half spin shortening the rear of his car by about three or four inches. Gordon who was struggling with the handle of his racecar went straight to the garage.

On the restart on lap 168 it looked like the Stewart-Johnson-Kenseth show as the trio immediately pulled away from the rest of the field. At lap 180 Stewart held a 1.1 second lead over Johnson, 2.4 seconds over Kenseth.

Evernham Motorsports continued its horrible weekend as Elliott Sadler trailed the field on the racetrack in 38th place and Kahne soldiers a lap behind in 39th last place of cars still running. Sadler had wrecked yesterday in practice with just 30 seconds left in the session. A lap later Sadler comes in and the crew checks the tow-in on the front suspension on the evil handling car.

On 195 the front of the field appeared static as Stewart maintained his 1.1 second lead over Johnson. Robby Gordon returned to the field after making repairs to his Jim Beam Ford.

On lap 201 Dave Blaney in the Caterpillar Bill Davis Racing Toyota made hard contact with the turn two wall as he had a tire go down. Ward Burton also got tangled up in the mess however moved on. Blaney?s battered Toyota ended up on the grass on the inside of the turn as Blaney slowly got out of the car uninjured. Blaney?s hit was one of the hardest of the weekend. With all lead lap cars making pit stops on lap 203 with 65 laps to go and a pit window of 56-58, the question is can they make to the finish without pitting again or make it to the finish?
Green flag waved on lap 207 and Stewart looked strong as he opened a lead over Johnson and Earnhardt who had a great pit stop. However on the next lap Earnhardt slowed on the backstretch and told his crew he lost his power steering. Earnhardt lost six spots but appeared to be back up to speed. More problems for the DEI team as Earnhardt?s teammate Martin Truex, Jr. came in under green as the Chevy lost a cylinder. The crew worked on the car behind pit wall.

Lap 223 second place Jimmie Johnson blew his right rear tire as he entered turn 3 and made hard contact with the wall with the left side and rear of his car. After sliding to a stop to the entry of turn four Johnson exited the car slowly and rubbed and shook his right arm. “Yeah, I’m okay. That certainly knocked the wind out of me and I hit my elbow on the seat. But I’m just disappointed. We had such a great race car and I was trying to have something there for the No. 20 (Tony Stewart). It’s amazing when that tire blew how violent it was. I thought the drive shaft came out of the car it was so violent, but it was just the right rear tire.” Johnson explained the cause of his crash, ?We just blew the right rear (tire). I got a little bit looser on that run and evidently there is something up with that tire. Just going down the back straightaway that sucker exploded. I thought the drive shaft came out of it, it was so violent.” It was a hard hit, ?It knocked the wind out of me for a second. I hit my elbow on the seat. But to be honest with you, when it first turned around, I knew how fast I was going and I expected the impact to be a lot worse. It says a lot for the car and a lot for the soft walls and to get a bump on my elbow is all, that’s pretty good.”

Under yellow on lap 226 everybody came to pit road as Stewart and Kenseth led the way. Stewart, Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Harvick only took on fuel.

When the green came out on lap 230 (37 laps to go) Stewart and Kenseth paced the field. Kenseth battled Stewart down the backstretch as Kenseth edged him at the line. On the next lap Stewart battled back to retake the lead. As the two continued to battle the duo pulled away from Harvick, Kurt Busch and Mears. Kenseth remarked after the race with his battle with Stewart, ?I got a really good re-start that time and cleared a lap car and had a huge run off two on the outside, and it was very, very close, so I hope someday if I go up there I get the same lift off the gas pedal a little bit. I had to get out of it a little bit because he closed the door and I hung a left and still got a good run down the backstretch ? almost cleared him getting into three, I had such a huge run. But then we ran side-by-side for a couple of laps, and when you?re on the bottom and you?re racing for position, it?s hard to hang on to. If it?s early in the race, people will give you a little extra room to hang on to your car, but when it?s at the end for position you?re both racing as hard as you can. I stayed under him for about two laps and finally I went off into three, we went up in there side-by-side, and I got so loose I was afraid I was going to wipe us both out so I had to get back behind him. He probably had the superior car anyway, but on that one re-start it was fun to get in there. I wish I could finish the pass and see how much better the car would?ve been in clean air, and at least try to hold him off.?

Yellow returned to the track as J.J. Yeley encountered problems in his Interstate Batteries Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet. It appears he had a tire going down as he had slowed a bit a lap earlier. Yeley commented, “Ran in there again and got free, got the wall lightly, thought everything was okay. Made two more laps and then cut down the right front tire and augured it in the fence really hard. A tough way to end the day. Definitely damaged the front clip – it killed it when I hit. I hate it for the guys. We haven’t had a self-inflicted DNF by the driver yet but chalk one up to me today.”

On lap 251 Joe Nemecheck spun after getting loose in turn 4. Nemecheck slid into the infield grass, however ?front row? Joe continued on.
After a ?quick yellow? the field took the green on lap 255 with 12 laps to go. Stewart led the field as Kenseth chased with Harvick and Edwards following. Edwards passed Harvick with 8 laps to go to take third. Stewart opened a 1.1 second lead with 7 laps to go over Kenseth. Stewart increased his lead over Kenseth with 4 laps to go with a 1.5 second lead. With two to go Edwards pressured Kenseth for second place.

Stewart took the white flag as Edwards dived under Kenseth but cannot keep the spot. Edwards would later comment, ?I got to race with Matt there at the end; that was pretty cool. I should?ve stayed to the high side, I think I would?ve gotten him. I tried to slide job him and that didn?t work out, but I did have a good time today.?

Stewart takes the win over Kenseth. Stewart?s margin of victory is 1.727 seconds.

Stewart stops under the starter stand and the question is, will he climb the fence? Yes he does, waving to the cheering crowd as he reaches the top of starter stand. NASCAR starters, Rick Monroe and Rodney Wise greet the winner as Stewart takes a drink from a water bottle on top of the stand. Stewart returned to his car with the checkered flag and climbs into his car. Performing a burn out, he drives to victory lane located behind pit lane in the center of the speedway.

Kenseth thought he had a fast car but not fast enough, ?It was pretty good. I thought we had a ? most of the day ? a fourth- to eighth-place car, and made some really good adjustments, got the car a lot better where we could run with them. It just seemed like the 48 and the 20 were in front of us and we couldn?t quite run with them guys, but other than that, we seemed to be able to break even with most of them, depending on what track position we had. So, overall it was a good day. It feels good to come home second. I had that one shot at him and I just couldn?t quite finish the pass. If I could?ve finished that pass on the re-start, I would?ve liked to have been in front of him and tried to hold him off ? I don?t know if I could?ve or not, but I would?ve liked to like that chance. It was nice to be in clean air.? Kenseth is happy with his consistency, ?I think our consistency is pretty good, but it?s a different day with the way the point system works. It?s great to finish and say I got a lot of points, but it would?ve been nice to have that win and that extra 10 going into the Chase because we?re pretty comfortable in the top 12, so we really need to be winning races if we could. We work as hard as we can every week to try to win, and you can only go as fast as you can get your race car to go. So, I do feel like our consistency is good. I think it?s always been fairly good. We?ve had a really good group of guys.

Kevin Harvick ended up fourth commented, ?This whole Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet team did a great job today. You’d have thought I was running 30th as bad as I was complaining about the car. The first half of the race the car was really loose. We tightened the thing up and all of a sudden it was just really tight. We had to start unwinding things out of the car there at the end to loosen it back up. A good, solid run for us. That’s what we needed. We just need a little bit of momentum. The performance is there. We just need things to go our way.”

Stewart said it was teamwork that got him to victory lane, “All these Home Depot guys won the race,” said Stewart. “They got us the track position we needed, especially with late cautions like that. Being out front, being in clean air was everything. So every one of those guys with the Monte Carlo SS were the ones who got us in victory lane today, for sure.” Stewart added, It was good. It was really good all day. The thing about here is you’ve got to have it so free on the front of a run to be good in the center and the end and we luckily, even with all those restarts, we never got a chance to get enough laps on the tires to really let us get tight enough. We were still just a little bit free there at the end… It was good enough in clean air even though it was free to stay out front. We just kept wanting a long run. We didn’t want to see those cautions there at the end. Matt (Kenseth) was really good on restarts, I mean really, really good on restarts. I couldn’t make a mistake. If I made one mistake I was going to have a hard time explaining to these guys how I lost the race.

“What won us the race is (crew chief Greg) Zippy (Zipadelli) and these guys – the pit crew – did an awesome job today. They kept us the track position at the end and that’s what we needed. Track position was so important to let us run our pace and run the line that we wanted to run without having to worry about getting in dirty air. Thanks to these guys around me, that’s what got us in Victory Lane again.” Regarding his fence climb, Stewart joked, “Matt Yokum was telling me I looked like I was struggling a little bit but I told him to get his fat butt up there and see what he can do. That’s not as easy as it looks. It’s leaning out over the track.”

This is Stewart?s first victory of 2007 and his 30th career NEXTEL Cup Series victory in 303 starts. There were 7 caution flags for 32 laps and 20 lead changes among 9 drivers. Time of race, 2 hrs 58 min 59 sec. Scott Riggs, Brian Vickers, Dale Jarrett, A.J. Allmendinger, Kevin Lepage and Kenny Wallace failed to qualify for the race.

Share Button