Stewart leads Chase field after round one

September 18, 2005 (Loudon, NH)
By Linda Przygodski -

Tony Stewart's second place finish at New Hampshire International Raceway helped him retain the top spot on the NASCAR Chase for the Nextel Cup scoreboard. Ryan Newman's win assisted him to third. The only Chase participant bitten by bad luck was defending series champ Kurt Busch whose Chase hopes went up in smoke on lap three.

1. Tony Stewart: Led a race high 173 laps, finished 2nd

"There was a reason he passed me," said Stewart. "He was faster there toward the end. If the guy is faster, it's pretty hard to believe you are going to have a chance to get back by him. We tried. There wasn't a lack of effort there. Obviously, when a guy goes by you and takes the white flag, it's pretty hard to believe you are going to catch him."

2. Greg Biffle (-20) Finished 4th

"Calling two tires there under green, that was a pretty bold move," said Biffle. "I'm just happy to see out sport is so equal, to see the 12 and the 20 race for position, and me and the 17, after 300 laps, to race for position like that is pretty incredible."

3. Ryan Newman (-40) Race winner

"You could sit third now and be tenth next weekend," said Newman. "We have to keep the momentum up and Dover is definitely the place to do it.we learned some things since then that we can apply when we go back there."

Newman is the defending race winner of next week's event at Dover International Speedway.

4. Rusty Wallace (-40) Finished 6th

Wallace was penalized for pitting outside his pit box. Fell to 34th on the restart at lap 142. The 'lucky dog' got him back on the lead lap at 169.

"We brought it home in sixth place," Wallace said. "We thought we had a better car than that. I just got behind early and that was about it. We had a lot of challenges today, but I was able to get back from them, and that was good."

5. Matt Kenseth (-50) Finished third

Survived a lug nut getting wedged between his wheel and rotor to land third.

"We had great pit stops," said Kenseth. "Came back from that problem and didn't really tear anything up and were able to work our way back through there through pit strategy and having a good car. It feels good to come here and get a good finish and look forward to going to Dover."

6. Jimmie Johnson (-53) Finished 8th

After a streak of bad luck leading up the Chase this team seems to have rallied. Johnson earns his 16th top ten of the season.

"We had a top ten car throughout the day," Johnson commented. "Unfortunately, we just couldn't get the speed out of it over the long run. The short runs, we were very good. The pit strategy was awesome. The pit stops were awesome.

"We did everything we needed to do and then just held our own for a little bit and gradually got tighter and tighter.a top ten is exactly what we needed."

7. Mark Martin (-54) Finished 7th

"I want to thank Jimmy Fennig (crew chief) and the whole 97 team," Martin said. "That's a great race car. It was better than the finish we got. I didn't get it done here for some reason, but the car was awesome, and I want to thank that team for helping us out."

8. Jeremy Mayfield (-95) Finished 16th

Had a strong top five run most of the day, pit strategy bit Team 19 in the end.

"Well, the good news is that we started the Chase out better than we did last year," commented Mayfield. "The bad news is that we battled the car all day long. We just couldn't get the handling right. We really wanted to come out of here with a top five or a top ten, but at least we didn't come out with a DNF."

9. Carl Edwards (-109) Finished 19th

Ran in mid pack most of the day and had an otherwise uneventful event. Solid top-20 for this rookie team.

"I've learned a lot about New Hampshire over the last couple of races," said Edwards. "It's flat and fast and I think I'm improving with every lap that I run there.We accomplished making the 'Chase' but now it's time to focus on going after the championship. We have a great team and great race cars so if we can run consistently up front I don't think there's any reason why we couldn't be in contention for the big prize."

10. Kurt Busch (-142) Finished 35th

Busch would not get off to the start he did last year in the 'Chase'. The No. 10 of Scott Riggs made contact with Busch on lap 3. Busch promptly exited his car, made a long hike down pit road and climbed to the top of the No. 10 pit box to speak his mind to Rodney Childers, Riggs' crew chief.

"Now we have to go and attack each race for a win," Busch said. "We have to go to Dover and expect to win and try and build our points back up."

On the bubble:
The 11th place driver gets a place on the stage during the banquet and an extra bonus check. Elliott Sadler's bad run drops him from that spot to 14th. Jamie McMurray climbs to the 11th spot followed by Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick.