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Stewart Nabs Third in Carfax 250 at Michigan

Last Drive with JGR’s No. 20 Nationwide Series Team a Solid One

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart finished a strong third in his final NASCAR Nationwide Series race for Joe Gibbs Racing. The driver of the No. 20 Old Spice/Give Kids the World Toyota was in the hunt to score his sixth Nationwide Series win of the season in Saturday’s Carfax 250 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, but his second and final pit stop of the day proved a tick slower than those of his nearest pursuers.

After leading three times for 36 laps, Stewart found himself in fourth-place with less than 30 laps to go. He rallied to catch Mark Martin for third on lap 96, and following a restart on lap 101, dove beneath second-place Brian Vickers in turns three and four of the two-mile oval. But the back end of Stewart’s Old Spice Toyota stepped out on him, and while he was able to gather it back up, he dropped back to fourth when Greg Biffle passed him on lap 105.

With 13 laps to go, Stewart clawed his way into the top-three, but it’s where he would stay as Carl Edwards took the win with Vickers following in second.

“I got us a little bit off today and it got us a little bit too tight in the center,” said Stewart after finishing his fourth career Nationwide Series race at Michigan. “Dave Rogers (crew chief) and this whole Old Spice team – they’ve done such a great job. They’re in a record-setting year and it’s just been an honor to drive the car for them.”

Stewart won five times with the No. 20 team this season while running just a nine-race schedule. And when Stewart wasn’t in the No. 20 machine, it continued to win with three other drivers – Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. The Rogers-led No. 20 team won nine races, while his counterpart at Joe Gibbs Racing – crew chief Jason Ratcliff – won five races with two drivers (Busch and Hamlin) in his No. 18 Toyota. The 14 combined wins set an all-time Nationwide Series record for victories in a single season by one organization.

“This was our last race with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series,” Stewart said. “I’m just really thankful to Dave Rogers and all of the guys on this Old Spice team. It’s been fun to run that car this year and to run for Dave, who everyone knows was an engineer on my (NASCAR Sprint) Cup team years ago. It’s one of those days where you’re kind of sad your year is over, but I’m so proud of Dave and all of those guys and the entire organization – the 18 team and the 20 team. They’ve done just amazing things in the last couple of years. They’re not done yet. They’ve got the rest of the year. I got a feeling the record that they set is going to keep growing.”

Adding to the fun was a Nationwide Series race at Michigan that reminded Stewart of what it would be like to race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway without a horsepower-choking restrictor plate.

“Today’s race reminded me of what I can imagine Daytona was like without restrictor plates and with the slingshot and everything,” said Stewart referring to the legendary slingshot pass drivers used to employ to make a last-minute pass for the win. “You could get two or three guys there and it really got racy and fun. I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of anything that was that much fun here at Michigan.

“These cars are so momentum-driven and with the horsepower that we’ve had taken away, it really made that even more critical today. You had to make sure that you kept your momentum up and didn’t get the car bound up in any way.

“When you could get two or three guys racing like that, it was really fun. Guys could go in below you and slide up right in front of you and you could turn and go back underneath them. That’s something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen here in Michigan. Early in the race we got with Carl (Edwards) and Brian (Vickers) and that pretty much set the tone for the day of knowing who was going to be good and be there at the end of the race, and that’s the way it shaped up.”

Stewart’s third-place effort kept the No. 20 car first in the Nationwide Series owner standings, extending its lead to 318 points ahead of the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing entry after 25 of 35 races on the Nationwide Series schedule.

Edwards’ victory was the 16th of his Nationwide Series career, his third of the season and his first at Michigan. Finishing in fourth was Martin. Biffle rounded-out the top-five, while Mike Bliss, Stewart’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano, Jason Leffler, Kelly Bires and Clint Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top-10.

The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the Aug. 22 Food City 250 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 8 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN2 beginning with its pre-race show at 7:30 p.m. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.

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