Tony Stewart's driving performance has been no less than stellar this season, so notching a win for the first-year Home Depot team has been more a question of when rather than if. That question was answered in the Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 500 where Stewart led five times for a whopping 333 of the 400 laps turned at Richmond International Raceway. Stewart celebrated his first Winston Cup victory with a serving of smoky donuts followed by a counterclockwise lap around the track as he waved to the cheering fans.
Stewart held off teammate Bobby Labonte, who was showing signs of becoming a threat in the final 10 laps. Heavy traffic kept Labonte at bay, however, and he had to settle for Second Place, which pleased Pontiac team owner Joe Gibbs to no end.
"This is a team victory, and this is something Joe Gibbs has been dreaming about," said Stewart. "I'm just glad I'm on top tonight."
It was Gibbs' first career Winston Cup one-two finish. "This is one of the biggest thrills of my life," said an ebullient Gibbs. "I wanted either Tony or Bobby to win. Tony was out front all night, so you had a feeling something was going to happen. I'm so happy for him."
Finishing third was Dale Jarrett. Sterling Marlin and Kenny Irwin finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Race NotesTony Stewart is the first rookie to win in Winston Cup since the late Davey Allison won at Talla-dega and Dover in 1987. Stewart can now add this victory to his already impressive stats: eight top 5s, 16 top 10s, and two poles, one of which was at Daytona. The first-year Home Depot team marked their christening victory in a postrace celebration that lasted well into the night.
The Dupont Chevrolet gave way to transmission problems on Lap 313, giving its driver, Jeff Gordon, his sixth DNF (did not finish) this season. Mark Martin finished 35th with engine problems to his Valvoline Ford.
Winston Cup Championship Point Standings Following The Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400
|1. DALE JARRETT ||3858 |
|2. MARK MARTIN ||3588 |
|3. BOBBY LABONTE ||3548 |
|4. TONY STEWART ||3508 |
|5. JEFF BURTON ||3196 |
|6. JEFF GORDON ||3399 |
|7. DALE EARNHARDT ||3291 |
|8. RUSTY WALLACE ||3003 |
|9. TERRY LABONTE ||2891 |
|10. MIKE SKINNER ||2850 |
Race No. 25There were 12 lead changes among eight drivers and eight cautions, for a total of 53 laps.
NASCAR Busch SeriesFollowing are the top-five finishers of the Autolite Platinum 250 held at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia.
1.Dale Earnhardt Jr.2.Mark Martin3.Jimmy Spencer4.Kenny Wallace5.Kevin Grubb