Sixth Gets Stewart Second at Richmond

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Home Depot Driver Scores Seventh Top-10 of Season, Moves to Second in Points

Date: May 6, 2006
Event: Crown Royal (Round 10 of 36)
Series: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Location: Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (.75-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 18th/6th (Running)
Winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr. of Dale Earnhardt Inc. Tony Stewart finished a solid sixth in Saturday night's Crown Royal 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing started the event in 18th and battled an ill-handling race car throughout the 400-lap affair. "It started off really, really bad," said Stewart. "We were really off the mark. The car just would not get in the race track. But as the night kept going, we kept working on it and almost got another top-five out of it. So, we're not too disappointed at all." With three Cup Series wins, five top-fives and nine top-10s in 14 career starts at Richmond, Stewart and his Home Depot Racing Team had reason to be confident that their 15th career start at the .75-mile oval would yield similar results. Plus, with four straight top-three finishes in the races that preceded Richmond, expectations were high. But with 65 laps in the books, Stewart and Co. knew they had a long night ahead of them. "We've got no grip," said Stewart over the radio. "It's like the whole car is on top of the race track. I'm sliding the nose through the corners." Tight in the center of the corners and loose off was the No. 20 car's ailment. But crew chief Greg Zipadelli worked diligently to find a remedy. Track bar adjustments, wedge adjustments and air pressure adjustments were made on each of the team's six pit stops. The most drastic change came during a pit stop while under caution on Lap 81, where two spring rubbers were pulled out of the right rear and one was pulled out of the left rear. Pulling spring rubbers takes time, and Stewart returned to the race in 26th. The changes, while not a cure, did at least address the team's chassis woes. Stewart cracked the top-10 for the first time on Lap 170 with a pass of Brian Vickers through the frontstretch. The two-time and reigning Nextel Cup champion rose even further, climbing to fourth after a caution on Lap 260. Unfortunately, that's as close to the leaders as Stewart would get. He fought off hard charges from the likes of Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards, but others proved too strong. As the laps clicked toward 400, Stewart settled in at sixth to log his seventh top-10 of the season. The sixth-place effort bumped Stewart up one spot to second in the championship point standings, 55 markers arrears series leader Jimmie Johnson. Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammates - Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley - finished second and 22nd, respectively. Hamlin picked up three spots to climb to 16th in points, while Yeley maintained his 22nd place point standing. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Crown Royal 400 to score his 17th career win and his first of the season. Finishing third behind Hamlin was Kevin Harvick, while Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch secured the rest of the top-five. Stewart, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Sterling Marlin and Clint Bowyer comprised the rest of the top-10. The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the May 13 Dodge Charger 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The race begins at 6:55 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.

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