By admin | September 30, 2008
By Richard Allen
Tony Stewart came out of the Dover race one week ago in 7th place of the Chase for the Championship standings, 113 points out of first place. One week ago there was still a glimmer of hope that he might end his highly successful tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing on a championship note. That glimmer has since been extinguished.
After the Camping World 400 in Kansas Stewart has fallen too far back to be able to make any sort of comeback. In that race he finished 40th and now stands in 11th place of the overall standings, 255 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
Stewart’s fate was sealed after two somewhat bizarre incidents with the #83 car of Brian Vickers. During a caution, which came out on lap 122, Stewart had one of Vickers’ crew members wind up laying on the hood of the #20 Toyota as he attempted to leave his pit stall. The two teams had been pitting next to each other and both had difficulties with entries and exits during pit stops.
Shortly after that pit stop the two cars came together on the front stretch of the D-shaped track. Stewart’s car was sent spinning through the infield grass. The resulting damage to the front splitter slowed the car to the point that it was no longer a serious threat.
While there are still seven races remaining in the 2008 season, and thus seven races remaining before Stewart goes to assume his new role as the driver for Stewart/Haas Racing, there are too many points to be made up and too few races left on the schedule.
Thus will end one of the most successful owner/driver pairings in recent NASCAR history.
While driving for JGR, Stewart won Sprint Cup championships in 2002 and 2005. He is the only driver to have won NASCAR’s top title under both the old and the new point systems. Stewart has also claimed 32 race victories while driving for the famous football coach.
No doubt, Tony Stewart is looking forward to taking on his new role as owner/driver. However, he almost certainly would have liked to end his time at JGR with one more championship run. That is not going to happen.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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