18 July 2011
Loudon success rejuvenates Stewart-Haas
"I can promise you, I didn't leave anything out there," Stewart said. "That was as hard as I could run 'til the end. I couldn't get the rest of the way. I couldn't get any further than that."
And indeed, Newman had just enough pace - and just enough fuel - to make it home in first place with Stewart in second, recreating that qualifying order performance and blasting Stewart-Haas to their first 1-2 finish in the team's three season history.
"One hell of a day, boys. One hell of a day!" yelled a proud and no longer remotely frustrated team owner over the radio. Labelling it "a perfect weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing," Stewart went on: "I'm so damn proud I can't see straight. I'm proud of my buddy there standing on top of his car. He deserved it. He did an awesome job this weekend."
"We backed up what everybody said we couldn't back up, and that was our qualifying effort on Friday ... We knew we were capable of it," said an emotional Newman as he dedicated the win by the #39 - sponsored by the US Army - to military personnel and their friends and relatives. "We were so close so many times this year."
Stewart wanted to give special thanks to his pit crew chief Darian Grubb who had been ailing this weekend. "They told him yesterday he's got pneumonia," Stewart said. "He's battling through a weekend like this, never missed a beat on the box today."
Denny Hamlin hung on to finish in third place, admitting that his own crew chief Mick Ford had been "screaming that we've got to back off. At that point, you have to think about the risk versus reward ... As bad as I wanted to go up there and race those guys, I had to make the smart move and finish the race."
Sadly there was one late-race casualty when Jeff Gordon's fightback ended with a blown right front tyre on the final lap, which meant that he fell from fourth to 11th in the final seconds. "What did not happen to us today?" said Gordon. "It was a pretty crazy day for us, but certainly a lot to smile about with how great our car was. My goodness, our car was so good ... That long of a run on tyres, I should have been a little bit more conservative," he suggested: "I saw Hamlin starting to check up trying to save fuel and we had a shot of getting to him, so I started charging the corner a little bit harder and we put too much temperature and that's what blew the right front tyre."
Gordon suggested that his earlier battery problems which had forced him to turn off the car's cooling systems may well have played a part in the tyre failure at the end. "We had so many issues thrown at us today that I wasn't really thinking a whole lot about what kind of temperature we were putting into the brakes when those blowers were off or when we had to turn them on and turn them off," he said.
Instead, Joey Logano's earlier off-sync pit strategy was rewarded with fourth place just ahead of the recovering Jimmie Johnson in the #48. "I'm arguing with myself whether I should be frustrated or proud," said Johnson. "We finished awfully good with everything we went through today."
Although he was understandably angry with Montoya - "It's painful to get spun out on the race track" - Johnson's main source of annoyance seemed to lie more with his team after yet another lugnut issue. "When it's key times for stops, we have mistakes. I've been real patient all year trying to build. I'm running out of patience. I care for these guys deeply for going over the wall and I know they're very talented guys, but we're getting into my livelihood in a little bit when we get into this Chase and we've got to be right."
Tagged as: Brian Vickers , Kyle Busch , Jeff Gordon , Mark Martin , Tony Stewart , Ryan Newman , Stewart-Haas , Kevin Harvick , Brad Keselowski , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin , loudon
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