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Sprint Cup - Stewart Race Report Chicago

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Chicago, Sep. 17, 2012: Tony Stewart has no problem with the opening round of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup beginning at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Stewart, the driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has a series-best three wins at the 1.5-mile oval and only two finishes outside the top-10.

Stewart padded his Chicagoland statistics Sunday, as his sixth-place finish in the Geico 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race gave Stewart his 10th top-10 in 12 career Sprint Cup starts at Chicagoland.

“We probably passed more cars than anybody today, so not exactly what we were looking for,” said Stewart after logging his 13th top-10 finish of 2012. “We were just a little bit off and we’ll keep working on it, but if we can be a little bit off and end up with a top-10, then we’re in good shape.”

Stewart’s sixth-place result took a lot of effort. He started 28th, and after climbing all the way to 11th, Stewart had to go right back to where he started when a pit-road miscue during his second scheduled stop while under caution forced him to return to pit road. Instead of having one, two-tire pit stop that would’ve put him in the top-10, Stewart had two, two-tire pit stops that jettisoned him to 28th when the race restarted on lap 71.

“If we can just get a break, we’ll be right back in this thing,” Stewart said over the radio.

Again Stewart drove to the front, rising to sixth before a round of green-flag pit stops began on lap 134.

Stewart’s pit stop came off without a hitch. But as the jack dropped and Stewart left his pit box, the caution flag waved for Casey Mears’ accident in turn two. Just like that, Stewart was a lap down, and he was forced to take advantage of the “wave around” rule, which allows any car that doesn’t pit under caution to get a lap back if every car on the lead lap does pit.

Stewart was back on the lead lap in ninth place when the race restarted on lap 157. He cracked the top-five before the caution flew for the final time on lap 189 for Jeff Gordon’s crash in turn one.

Stewart and SHR teammate Ryan Newman each took four tires on the subsequent round of pit stops, while others took only two. When the race restarted on lap 194, the top-six drivers had taken only two tires. Newman and Stewart were the best of the four-tire brigade, and they lined up seventh and eighth, respectively.

The race went green the rest of the way, which meant one final round of crucially timed, green-flag pit stops was in order.