Friday's qualifying rain-out gave Sprint Cup points leader Tony Stewart the top starting spot for Sunday's Pocono 500, but a Saturday practice crash in turn two at Pocono Raceway took the position away again.
The rear end of Stewart's #14 Chevrolet stepped out as he entered Tunnel Turn during the first Cup practice session Saturday morning. Stewart slid through the infield grass at the exit of the corner and damaged the front end of his car so severely that it could not be repaired in time for the final session.
Forced to go to a back-up car for Sunday's race, Stewart must drop to the rear before the field takes the green flag. The back-up car is chassis #450, which Stewart drove to a 26th-place finish - his worst of the year - at Las Vegas.
“I went off into the grass, but I hit the right front of the splitter with, I guess, one of those access roads or something and ripped the whole nose off of it,” he said.
Before the incident, Stewart had posted the third fastest time in the first practice. After switching to the back-up car for Happy Hour, he was sixth fastest in the session, prompting him to promise that 'this car will be good'.
"If you look at how Jeff Gordon ran last week and ended up with a bad part there for a little bit, but had a good car, we'll be the same thing," he noted, "This car will be good. It's just that we're losing on the race track right now."
Robby Gordon will join Stewart at the rear of the field for the start of Sunday's race, but not because of a car or engine change. Gordon was in and around Ensenada, Mexico on Saturday, competing with co-driver Andy Grider in the Baja 500 off-road race in his #77 Chevrolet trophy truck. While Gordon was racing in the Mexican desert, Travis Kvapil practiced the #7 Toyota at Pocono, where he was 34th fastest in Happy Hour.
Meanwhile, thanks to a late entry on the part of the Larry Gunselman team that was fielding a car for driver Mike Wallace, Dexter Bean will make his Cup debut in the #51 Dodge on Sunday. Bean was the last driver in the field under NASCAR's rain-out rules.
by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service