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Monster Mile Bites Stewart
Date: Sept. 24, 2006
Event: Dover 400 (Round 28 of 36)
Series: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Location: Dover (Del.) International Speedway (1-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 22nd/33rd (Accident, completed 303 of 400 laps)
Winner: Jeff Burton of Richard Childress Racing Sunday's Dover 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway was only 12 laps old when it went bad for Tony Stewart. The driver of the No. 20 Six Flags/Home Depot Chevrolet spun entering turn three of the 1-mile oval, and with friend and fellow racer Kasey Kahne caught behind Stewart with nowhere to go, the two drivers made contact, sending both cars to the garage area for lengthy repairs. The end result was a 33rd-place finish for Stewart and 38th-place finish for Kahne. Stewart, who after finishing second last Sunday at New Hampshire discussed how uneasy he felt racing against those top-10 drivers competing in the Chase for the Championship, felt terrible knowing that his spin took Kahne - who entered Dover eighth in points - out of the race and possibly out of championship contention. "Wrecking is one thing, but when you take out somebody that's in the Chase, you've screwed up a whole team's year by one race," said Stewart. "And of all people, it's one of my good friends (Kasey Kahne). "Kasey can go out and win the rest of the races and not win the championship still. It's not about who's going to win the championship based on good finishes, it's going to be about guys who just don't have a bad day. That's all this Chase boils down to." Kahne, while disappointed with the outcome, understood the situation. "That's something you never see - Tony losing a car," said Kahne. "He just lost it. Things happen, and I was the car that hit him. "He didn't want to back into the wall and he was on the brakes hard. He almost came to a stop. I just ran out of room." Stewart and Kahne both returned to the race track, Stewart on lap 71 and Kahne on lap 152. Kahne raced to salvage as many championship points as possible while Stewart - the two-time and reigning Nextel Cup champion - worked with his crew chief Greg Zipadelli on finding ways to improve his Home Depot Chevrolet for future races at Dover. "We had the laps, so on each pit stop we kind of played around with some air pressure adjustments to see what worked and what didn't," said Stewart, who with no more positions to gain, pulled into the garage area with less than 40 laps remaining. "That's pretty much all we could do. "This is definitely a race car worth putting back together. It was a top-10 car there at the end." Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammates - Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley - finished ninth and 30th, respectively. Hamlin continues to lead the trio of JGR drivers in the championship point standings, as he is the lone JGR representative in the Chase for the Championship. Hamlin dropped two spots to fourth in points, 18 markers behind new series leader Jeff Burton. Yeley dropped two point positions as well. He is now 28th in points, 64 markers outside the top-25. Despite the rough outing, Stewart maintained his 11th-place point standing and continues to hold a healthy 217-point lead over 12th-place Greg Biffle. Burton scored his 18th career Nextel Cup victory and his first since October 2001 at Phoenix International Raceway by winning the Dover 400. Carl Edwards finished second, while Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Biffle secured the rest of the top-five. Martin Truex Jr., Bobby Labonte, Clint Bowyer, Hamlin and Matt Kenseth comprised the rest of the top-10. The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule - the third race of the 10-race Chase for the Championship - is the Oct. 1 Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway. The race begins at 2:10 p.m. EDT with live, high-definition coverage provided by NBC.