Stewart Breaks Dry-Spell at The Monster Mile
Breaking his 30-race dry spell at Dover on Sunday, Tony Stewart later revealed that as the owner of his team it did cross his mind that pushing for a win might wreck his car, leaving him with repairs to pay for. But with a couple of laps left in the FedEx 400, when crew chief Steve Addington reportedly told him to ‘use it up’, he passed Juan Pablo Montoya to cross the finish line in first place. While it was generally expected among fans that Jimmie Johnson would continue his winning streak, he notched up a penalty for prematurely pulling ahead of Montoya off a restart with just 19 laps to go. Johnson was moved to the back of the field and finished the race 17th. Third place was taken by Jeff Gordon, with Kyle Busch in fourth and Brad Keselowski in fifth.
Johnson voiced his displeasure at the penalty, explaining that he had tried to give the position back to Montoya after the restart, and ran half-throttle for the first half a lap before pushing ahead. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president disagrees with Johnson, saying that the penalty was ‘a very easy call’. Up until the penalty it appeared that Johnson had a good chance of taking the victory at the so-called ‘Monster Mile’, despite the fact that he had started 24th and had some difficulty moving up in the field initially. An early pit-stop by Johnson on Lap 71 allowed him to regain lost time before the caution for debris in Lap 80 and after that he moved up rapidly in the field and was in sixth place by the time a caution for debris was called in Lap 160. A seventh caution was called when Denny Hamlin’s tire blew on Lap 382 and Montoya took two tires before beating Johnson to the pit road exit, with Johnson passing the start/finish line ahead of Montoya and collecting the race-changing penalty. While emphasizing that he disagreed with the call, Johnson noted that his team will ‘just come back and try to win in the fall’.