Stewart looks poised for second championship

November 13, 2005 (Avondale, AZ)
By Linda Przygodski -

It looks like its all Tony Stewart heading into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend. A strong top-five finish puts Stewart 52 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson.

All Stewart needs next week is to finish ninth or better, regardless of where the other contenders finish. Only the top four racers are mathematically eligible to win the Nextel Cup.

1. Tony Stewart: Finished fourth, Leader

Team 20 did what they needed to do to build a cushion between themselves and the No. 48 of Johnson.

"It wasn't that it was so good," said Stewart of his car. "It just had a good balance. It just needed to be faster.we just kept working with it.but the 16 and the 5 were the class of the field today.

"We did what we needed to do point wise this weekend."

2. Jimmie Johnson: Finished seventh, -52

Johnson grabbed a top-ten but needed to finish in front of Stewart to truly keep his championship hopes alive. Barring a mechanical failure or wreck at Homestead Johnson will once again be a bridesmaid in the championship finals.

"We needed to finish in front of Tony and we just couldn't get there," commented Johnson. "We'll see what happens next week."

3. Carl Edwards: Finished sixth, -87

Edwards ran up front most of the day, but lost track position as pit strategies began to play out.

"Oh yeah, this was a really important race - probably one of the most important of my career," Edwards said. "I'm happy with my performance. I feel like today was a successful day. The only thing I didn't do very well was getting through traffic there on that last stop, but you can only race so hard and to come back up to sixth, I think, was a good run for us today. It's just too bad we have a points deficit we're trying to make up. We didn't cut into it."

4. Greg Biffle: Finished second, -102

Looked poised to win but just didn't have enough steam to get past Kyle Busch in the races closing laps. Biffle is the last of the four drivers still mathematically eligible to win the title.

"It was a great run for the Post-It National Guard car today," said Biffle. "This is what we need to do - it's championship form right here. We wanted to win, but we came here and led a lot of laps and ran real strong and finished second. It just goes to show how solid this race team is."

5. Mark Martin: Finished 14th, -162

Average day for the No. 6 Ford team; pit strategy shuffled them a bit as the races final laps cycled out.

"We should have been better than that," said Martin. "It just wasn't our day. I guess that is it for the championship."

6. Ryan Newman: Finished 12th, -207

Wrecked his primary car in practice on Friday, never seemed to get the car right.

"It wasn't too horrible considering it was a backup car," said Newman. "We showed signs of being a lot better than 12th, and we showed signs of being a lot worse than 12th. We'll take the Alltel Dodge to Homestead and see if we can run better down there. We're mathematically out of first place, but we can always be the first loser (second). You just keep going and run as hard as you can and where you end up is where you end up.

"You have fun racing, especially when you're going forward, but in the end it's just another day at the office. Travis Kvapil and the 77 guys did a good job today. He had the only Dodge in the top 10, and I see two Dodges in the top 15. That's not real sporty."

7. Matt Kenseth: Finished 32nd, -228

Electrical problems plagued the No. 17 Ford forcing them into their worst finish of the Chase.

"We just had a seal or something go bad in the caliper. That just got us behind and we couldn't really fix it. We had a real competitive car. We had great pit stops and everything went right, we just had a mechanical failure so I don't know what else we could really do," explained Kenseth.

8. Rusty Wallace: Finished 29th, -399

Wallace had two bad pit stops and then had to pit under green in the races closing laps due to loose lug nuts.

"I think we were eighth on that last restart, but we had a vibration and had to pit under green and that was all she wrote as far as getting a good finish," Wallace explained. "We've had terrible luck these past few weeks, but we'll go to Homestead and battle to the end. I'm sure I'll have mixed emotions next week, but we'll try as hard as we can to go out a winner."

9. Kurt Busch: DID NOT RACE, -441

Busch was suspended for the rest of the season by Roush Racing after being arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

"Obviously, I'm upset," said Busch. "It's tough. I'm a race car driver, there's a race today and I'd love to be in the race,'' he said. ``My crew, (crew chief) Jimmy Fennig, I have to thank them for what they gave me. Man, it's just unfortunate. I'd love to be there for them today. "That's the decision they made, and I will live with it."

10. Jeremy Mayfield: Finished 24th, -476

Bad day for the No. 19 team. The only good news in this camp is that with Busch out they will slide into a ninth place result overall.

"We didn't have a good day," said Mayfield. "The 25 car got into us and we got into the wall pretty hard. It was a long day. We weren't good the whole time here. We got better as the day went on, and the last couple of weeks haven't been good for us. It's time to go back to the drawing board I think."