Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stewart Does a Rain Dance

Tony Stewart usually doesn't start to win races until June or July.  So I think someone needs to give him a calendar.  Stewart must think that it's the summer, because he won his second race of the season at California. 

Stewart gets out of his car under the red flag (Courtesy Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin led the field to the green in Fontana, and led the first lap before Kyle Busch took the lead away from his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate.  Busch would lead the race for much of the first half, only losing the lead during the first two cycles of green flag pit stops.  Tony Stewart was the first driver to pass Kyle Busch during racing action, when Busch could not get around Juan Pablo Montoya on lap 85.

Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin lead the field at the start of the race (Courtesy Getty Images)
 With the rain that was in the forecast for the day, one of the biggest victories came when Tony Stewart crossed the line on lap 100.  The race then became official, and all the crews could go home that night; no Monday race!  As soon as the race was official, green flag pit stops began again, and Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson began trying some pit strategy.  They stayed out a few extra laps, hoping to make it on fuel mileage.  But Jeff Gordon dragged his gas man out of his pit stall, and he had to serve a drive-thru penalty.

Tony Stewart regained the lead after pit stops, and continued to lead the field until the first caution came out on lap 123; rain had arrived in Turn 4.  The red flag came out on lap 129, and the race was never resumed.  Tony Stewart was able to outlast the rain, to win yet another race.  He has now won seven of the last fifteen races. 

The cars sit on pit road after it began raining (Courtesy Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, who led the most laps, finished second to Stewart.  Busch was followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in third, Kevin Harvick in fourth, and Carl Edwards in fifth.  Edwards' teammate and Sprint Cup Series points leader Greg Biffle finished sixth.  Ryan Newman was seventh, Martin Truex Jr. was eighth, and Kurt Busch was ninth.  Jimmie Johnson, who had engine problems right as the caution fell for rain, hung on to round out the top ten.  Mark Martin, who will not race next week in Martinsville, finished 12th.

Stewart's car is pushed to victory lane after the race was called for rain (Courtesy Getty Images)
Tony Stewart has kept his momentum from last season going, and he seems to be poised for another championship run.  Next week, the Sprint Cup Series will roll into Martinsville Speedway for a race on the shortest track in NASCAR.  The race coverage starts at 12:30 on FOX.

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