Bumps stir things up for Stewart, Johnson

Peace reigns

R. Wallace, Martin fall short again

Daytona 500

February 21, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Tony Stewart, who drives the No. 20 Chevrolet for the Joe Gibbs team, has been described as his generation's A.J. Foyt. That means he is a great racer with a short temper.

Yesterday, in the 47th annual Daytona 500, Stewart was both great and angry.

He led 107 laps, more than anyone else. And even after Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch had passed him for first and second, it looked as if he was headed for a solid, third-place finish.

But things happen. Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 Chevy happened.

Going into the final lap, Johnson was trying to help Gordon by blocking Stewart, who had slipped to fourth. In the process, the two cars banged more than once.

When Stewart got out of his car in the garage area, Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, confronted him.

"I think Chad was mad about me running into his driver after the race," Stewart said. "I think his driver did enough running into us before we got to the checkered flag.

"I was mad [Johnson] pinched me into the No. 10 [Scott Riggs]," said Stewart, who wound up seventh. "We went down there and we both bumped into each other. We both did the same thing to each other. So, you know, it's fine."

After the race, both drivers were "invited" into the NASCAR office for a discussion.

"I don't know why Tony was mad," said Johnson before the NASCAR meeting. "I was trying to block him, like I'm supposed to. He's upset. He ran me into the turn one wall. There was no retaliation. I just turned the wheel to get off the wall and ran back into him."

After the meeting, both were smiling.

"We just got everyone together to see what can be made up," Johnson said.

"We were trading cooking secrets," Stewart said. "But seriously, it's fine. More than anything, NASCAR wanted to make sure it wasn't something that was going to linger overnight.

"It's like I told Jimmy, you know. Jimmie and I are really, really good friends and this isn't something that's going to linger. It's over with."

Johnson agreed, adding, "NASCAR was kind of joking about it inside the trailer, saying they just want to make sure there wasn't anything to start off the season. If there was, they wanted to squash it now.

"It was just hard racing. We both come to the finish line doing all we can. Let's all go home."

No solace for two

Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin went into the race with 89 victories between them, but not one in the Daytona 500. Today, they still don't have a win.

But the two, both of whom have said this is their last season, were happy with their top 10 finishes.

"I wanted to win this race, but that's OK," said Wallace, who wound up 10th in his No. 2 Dodge. "It's really not OK, but I told everybody if I didn't win, it wouldn't be the end of the world. I put on a good performance out there all day."

Martin, who finished sixth in his No. 6 Ford, was equally proud.

"This was an awesome run for us," he said. "We fought our way back from the back a few times, and we did what we did. We were contenders. Not winning is no big deal right now. I don't have any major love for this place. Check with me at Charlotte. I'll have tears in my eyes."

Fierce talk

Boris Said, renowned in road-racing circles, competed in his first Daytona 500 yesterday and found out something interesting about his fellow competitors.

"These guys sure change their personalities in race mode," he said. "They're like Doberman Pinschers with a hand grenade in their mouths. I love it, but the bad side is that we just never had a chance to show our stuff today."

Said drove the No. 36 Chevrolet and was slowed by becoming involved in the first major accident of the afternoon on lap 26 that took out five cars. But, despite having to perform repairs, his team kept going and improved from its 41st-place starting position to finish 27th, four laps down.

Jarrett not up to speed

Pole-sitter Dale Jarrett never led a lap in his No. 88 Ford and had what he considered a rough ride to his 15th-place finish.

"We pulled the wrong gear," he said. "They were running over me. Junior [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] knocked me off the race track early in the race because it wouldn't run at the end of the straightaway."

Jarrett said his team was able to get the car to where he could drive it, but said he never had enough speed.

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