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Resilient Run for Stewart at Indy

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Defending Race Winner Overcomes Distant Starting Spot and Slow Pit Stop to Finish Eighth Date: Aug. 6, 2006
Event: Allstate 400 at the Brickyard (Round 21 of 36)
Series: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Location: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 32nd/8th (Running, completed 160 of 160 laps)
Winner: Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports Tony Stewart drove his No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet to a solid eighth-place finish in Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The top-10 effort - Stewart's 11th of the season - bumped the two-time and reigning Nextel Cup champion up one spot in the series point standings to ninth, eight points behind eighth-place Jeff Gordon and 505 markers behind series leader Jimmie Johnson. But getting that top-10 was far from easy, as Stewart had to overcome his 32nd place starting spot, and later, a broken air wrench during a pit stop that dropped Stewart from seventh all the way to 35th. "I think I passed 60 cars or more today," said Stewart, winner of last year's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. "I'm just really, really proud of this Home Depot team. We had an air gun break, so rather than take a chance that the wheel wasn't torqued as high as it needed to be, we came in and made sure it was good and battled our way back toward the front. "It was definitely a long day, but I am just so proud of the awesome job my Home Depot team did. I am really proud of my crew chief, Greg Zipadelli. He didn't think I was 100 percent safe with the lugs being tight on the left rear, so he made me come back in to make sure I was. And were able to rally back - just an awesome day." Stewart started the 160-lap race 32nd in the 43-car field, but he wasn't there for long. He methodically worked his way toward the front, cracking the top-10 on lap 44. By lap 50, Stewart was seventh. When Jeremy Mayfield slapped the turn two wall on lap 57, the caution flag waved. All of the front runners came to pit road, Stewart included. But it was during that pit stop where the air wrench in the rear tire changer's hands broke, leaving Stewart and Co. unsure just how tight those lugnuts were on the right rear tire. With over 100 laps still remaining, it was a smart and easy call for Zipadelli to bring Stewart back to pit road. With his tires secure, Stewart returned to the track in 35th. And on cue, Zipadelli keyed his mic to say, "Nothing comes easy." But Stewart made getting back toward the front look easy, despite driving at 200 mph inside a race car that radiated scorching heat on an already scorching day. By lap 69, Stewart was 25th. He was 20th by lap 84, 15th by lap 100 and back in the top-10 by lap 128. He got around Brian Vickers and Jeff Burton to climb to eighth before the second to last caution came out on lap 143. Stewart pitted for four tires and fuel, as did others. But a handful of teams opted for two tires, while Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman and Joe Nemechek stayed on the race track. The result was a jumbled running order, with Stewart back in 15th when the race restarted on lap 145. But with four fresh tires, Stewart cut his way into the top-10, passing Newman for 10th on lap 149 and both Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards to take eighth on lap 151. "It's kind of hard to pass when you get guys in a two-wide situation, but a lot of times you can get a really big run and go three-wide to get by," said Stewart. "That's about the only time we had to take any chances. For the most part, we had a lot of fun today." Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammates - Hamlin and J.J. Yeley - finished 10th and 34th, respectively. Hamlin's finish was his ninth top-10 of the year and his third straight, while Yeley saw a potential top-10 disappear when an incident with Kasey Kahne on the last restart sent Yeley sideways into the wall. Hamlin and Yeley now sit seventh and 26th, respectively, in points. Hamlin picked up one spot while Yeley held steady in 26th. Johnson scored his 22nd career Nextel Cup victory and his fourth of the season by winning the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Matt Kenseth finished second, while Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin secured the rest of the top-five. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Stewart, Carl Edwards and Hamlin comprised the remainder of the top-10. The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the Aug. 13 AMD at The Glen road course race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. The race begins at 1:35 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC.

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