In a wild and wacky Pocono 500, with the debut of double-file restarts, fuel mileage strategy, and a few rain drops thrown in, Tony Stewart ultimately smoked them all, holding on to win the race.
This is Stewart's 34th victory in 370 NASCAR Sprint Cup races. It also marks the first win for a driver-owner since Sept. 27, 1998, when Ricky Rudd won the race at Martinsville.
After saying that he did not want to leave Victory Lane, Stewart eventually made it to the media center.
"We had a great race car", said Stewart. "I'm so proud of my guys on this Office Depot Old Spice team."
Stewart continued, "I have to thank the guys from the Hendrick teams who helped us out" after his wreck in practice. Stewart acknowledged that he owes a great deal to that organization.
Former Hendrick team member and now winning crew chief for Stewart, Darian Grubb, said that it was "an interesting weekend all the way around."
"We were working real hard to get the points lead, and then we got the pole", said Grubb. "Then we had to go to the back up car, but everyone stayed calm and cool."
Grubb continued, "I think that we even made the second car better." Those words proved most prophetic for the No. 14 team.
Stewart did admit that it was very difficult for him to try to save fuel. "It's miserable," said Stewart of trying to save fuel. "It goes against everything that you are taught as a racer."
Carl Edwards came in second in the fuel mileage race at Pocono, posting his fifth top 10 finish in nine races at Pocono Raceway. It is Edwards' seventh top 10 finish in 2009.
Edwards said that the finish was close and he did not think that Stewart had saved that much fuel. He also said that Stewart beat him off pit road by three quarters of a car length.
"I'm just proud of my guys," said Edwards. "We ran up front all day and I think we led most of the laps and that's good. That's good stuff."
Edwards continued, "I'd like to have been out there with the trophy, but it's good for points."
David Reutimann, driver of the 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota, came in third. This was Reutimann's first top 10 finish in five races that he has run at Pocono Raceway.
Of his run at Pocono, Reutimann said, "It was probably stellar compared to the runs we've had here in the past."
Reutimann continued, "As a matter of fact, this time last year I was parked in the middle of Turns One and Two out of fuel."
His crew chief urged him to save fuel at the end of this race and although Reutimann admitted that he was "not very good at that," he managed to pull it off. The fuel mileage strategy played right into Reutimann's hands for one of his best finishes ever at Long Pond.
"It just worked out in the end," said Reutimann. "And it didn't rain."
Fourth-place finisher was none other than the driver of the DuPont Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon. Because of Stewart's practice wreck, Gordon actually got to start the race in the pole position.
Gordon's car was good at the beginning of the race, but worsened and turned to "junk" in his words later in the run.
But thanks to some gutsy pit strategy by crew chief Steve Letarte, Gordon was able to salvage a good run at the end of the day.
"We've seen it happen before," Gordon said of fuel mileage races at Pocono Raceway. "This is a tough place to save, so I'm impressed with those guys that finished ahead of us."
"I want to thank the whole DuPont crew for what they did to get me out there in that position," continued Gordon. "You've got to get the finish any way you can."
Gordon summarized his finish by saying, "We never gave up on it."
But the driver of the DuPont Chevrolet had a few choice things to say about the double-file restarts, saying "that killed us."
"My car was good in a single file line when we were in clean air," said Gordon. "But whew, man it was a handle there in dirty air."
"We tried to win it with the rain, but that didn't work," said Gordon. "So fourth-place, I'm pretty excited about that."
Ryan Newman rounded out the top five. Newman had a very wild day, with problems with the car forcing him to pit road several times.
But Newman was able to rally back, to finish fifth in the Pocono 500.
With this race win, Stewart has now stretched his points lead to 71 over Gordon in the Championship race.
In spite of the fuel challenges, double-file restarts, and just a spritz of rain, when the checkered flag waved at the Pocono 500, one of the most interesting top five finishers were listed atop the scoring pylon.
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