Good Ol' Boys - NASCAR

Rain sweetened victory for Tony Stewart
By Frank Ryan
July 9, 2000

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Kenny Irwin drove the No. 28 last year.  Current driver Ricky Rudd contemplates the loss of Kenny

After Friday's tragic loss of Kenny Irwin, most teams wished they could load the cars in the hauler and move on, but as NASCAR knows, the show must go on. Becoming the first three-time winner this season, Tony Stewart won the Thatlook.com 300 from Loudon, New Hampshire. On his way to victory, Stewart and his #20 Home Depot Pontiac led more than half the event and once again was the car to beat. Rounding out the top five were Joe Nemechek, Mark Martin, Jerry Nadeau and Jeff Gordon. The event was delayed once by rain for 51 minutes at lap 132 and again for the final time at lap 272.

Rusty Wallace claimed his 7th Bud Pole of the season, and the 33rd of his career, to lead the field to the green at the Thatlook.com 300 at the New Hampshire International Speedway at Loudon, New Hampshire. Wallace led the first lap, but gave way to John Andretti for a lap before local favorite Ricky Craven came to the front on lap 3 to the roar and approval of the crowd. 

When the rains came, the Mobil 1 team laid out the tarps to keep their pit stall dry

Craven had led the parade for only two laps when the first caution of the day came out on lap 5. Chad Little attempted to slip by Terry Labonte, but his car broke loose and collected Labonte, sending them both hard into the front stretch wall. Labonte appeared to get the worse end of the wreck, with a broken oil line causing flames to shoot out of the hood and under the car.

Craven led the field back to the green flag on lap 11 with Rusty Wallace in tow. Craven and his Mid West Transit Chevrolet could not put much distance between him and Wallace, but since Craven considers Loudon his home track, adrenaline was giving him the edge. 

The second caution period of the day was brought out on lap 28 when Mike Skinner spun and backed into the wall in turn 2. Bobby Hamilton was running in 29th place and tapped Skinner in the rear when attempting to pass, putting Skinner in a lazy backwards spin, slamming the left front into the wall. Skinners car was heavily damaged, but would return to see racing action at lap 143. During the ensuing caution period, a number of drivers chose not to pit, among them Rick Craven and Rusty Wallace.

Green flag racing continued at lap 36, with Craven continuing to pace the field for the next 31 laps. But on lap 67 a dialed in Geoffrey Bodine took over the lead and quickly opened up a four second lead. Bodine held the lead until pitting on lap 85, relinquishing it to Tony Stewart.

Robert Yates survey's the action

Stewart was leading when Jimmy Spencer lost a right front tire and hit the wall between turns 1 and 2 bringing out the third caution period of the day. Spencer hobbled out of the car and limped away from the wreck, but he was obviously done for the day. 

Green flag racing resumed at lap 108, but rain brought out the yellow flag at lap 125 and stopped the race with a red flag at lap 132. Tony Stewart was leading, with Jerry Nadeau, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt and Joe Nemechek in the top 5. The rain delay lasted 51 minutes before the track was dry enough for the cars to be fired up again and once again pound the pavement.

Running five laps of caution before going back to green flag racing at lap 137, Stewart would lead the race until pitting on lap 187. With the flurry of pit stops over the next 30 laps, a number of other drivers would also lead the race until they too had to pit. Among them were Joe Nemechek, Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield and Dale Jarrett. 

A total of eleven different drivers would lead the race before Stewart would regain the lead for the second and final time on lap 218. But how long would the rain hold off, and would it wash out the rest of the race? With 82 laps to go, Stewart continued to build his lead but he would not be able to finish the race under green without stopping for fuel. 

With 40 laps to go Stewart's lead was more than 7 seconds and growing with each lap, but at lap 266 the rains came and the caution flag flew for the fifth time during the race. Behind Stewart were Joe Nemechek, Mark Martin, Jerry Nadeau and Jeff Gordon. With only 13 cars on the lead lap, Jeff Burton gambled and opted to stop for fuel and tires, dropping him from 8th to 13th. Betting that most likely, Stewart, Nemechek and Gordon would still need to pit for fuel before the end of the race. But on lap 272 the red flag flew again stopping the event. With heavy rain continuing to fall, NASCAR called the event final with 28 laps remaining.

With three victories in the last six races, Stewart is arguably the best driver on the track right now. But can he continue his rampage, and more importantly, can he maintain the consistency it takes to become a Winston Cup Champion?

Provisional finishing order, Thatlook.com 300
1) Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac, 272 laps
2) Joe Nemechek, No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet, 272
3) Mark Martin, No. 6 Valvoline/Cummins Ford, 272
4) Jerry Nadeau, No. 25 Michael Holigan.com Chevrolet, 272
5) Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet, 272
6) Dale Earnhardt, No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet, 272
7) Dale Jarrett, No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Ford, 272
8) Jeremy Mayfield, No. 12 Mobil 1 Ford, 272
9) Bobby Labonte, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac, 272
10) Ricky Rudd, No. 28 Texaco Havoline Ford, 272
11) Jeff Burton, No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford, 272
12) Rick Mast, No. 14 Conseco Pontiac, 272
13) Geoffrey Bodine, No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet, 272
14) Johnny Benson, No. 10 Tyler Jet Motorsports Pontiac, 272
15) Rusty Wallace, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford, 272
16) Elliott Sadler, No. 21 CITGO Ford, 272
17) Ricky Craven, No. 50 Midwest Transit Chevrolet, 272
18) Ward Burton, No. 22 Caterpillar Pontiac, 272
19) Matt Kenseth, No. 17 DeWalt Tools Ford, 272
20) Brett Bodine, No. 11 Ralphs Supermarkets Ford, 272
21) Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, 272
22) Bobby Hamilton, No. 4 Kodak Chevrolet, 272
23) Ken Schrader, No. 36 M&M's Pontiac, 
24) Bill Elliott, No. 94 McDonald's Ford, 272
25) Sterling Marlin, No. 40 Coors Light Chevrolet, 272
26) Kenny Wallace, No. 55 Square D Chevrolet, 272
27) Wally Dallenbach, No. 75 America Online Ford, 271
28) Steve Park, No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet, 271
29) Stacy Compton, No. 9 Kodiak Ford, 271
30) Scott Pruett, No. 32 Tide Ford, 271
31) Kevin Lepage, No. 16 Familyclick.com Ford, 271
32) Mike Bliss, No. 27 Pfizer/Viagra Pontiac, 270
33) Darrell Waltrip, No. 66 Route 66/Big Kmart Ford, 270
34) Dave Blaney, No. 93 Amoco Pontiac, 270
35) Michael Waltrip, No. 7 NationsRent Chevrolet, 270
36) Steve Grissom, No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac, 268
37) Ed Berrier, No. 90 Hills Bros Coffee Ford, 267
38) Robert Pressley, No. 77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford, 162
39) Mike Skinner, No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet, 155
40) John Andretti, No. 43 Cheerios Pontiac, 109
41) Jimmy Spencer, No. 26 Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford, 98
42) Chad Little, No. 97 John Deere Ford, 5
43) Terry Labonte, No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet, 5

Photo courtesy of MSI

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