Stewart continues run of dominance

Win at Watkins Glen is points leader's 5th in 7

Auto Racing

August 15, 2005|By Jay Hart | Jay Hart,THE MORNING CALL

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Tony Stewart is making a joke of NASCAR's unofficial effort to keep the competition running as close to each other as possible.

Stewart won yesterday's Sirius Satellite Radio at The Glen by two football fields - and it wasn't even that close - to extend one of the most remarkable stretches in NASCAR history. He's now won five of the past seven races, having led the most laps in six of those and hasn't finished out of the top 10 in more than two months.

So dialed in are Stewart and his crew that in the past eight races, they've earned all but 89 of the available championship points, which is how they've reached Tiger Woods status. Are you taking the No. 20 car or are you taking the field?

"It's obvious that the 20 team has something figured out that nobody else does," Greg Biffle said Saturday before Stewart led 83 of 92 laps in yesterday's race. "They're doing something to get their car down on the track. It's obvious. You can see it on TV. ... I don't know that anybody knows what they're doing right now."

The answer is, no one knows what Stewart's crew has hit on, because if they did, they would have done something to reel him in instead of allowing him to run alone virtually all day at Watkins Glen International Raceway, a 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course.

Robby Gordon started 39th, passed 36 cars, but couldn't get by Stewart, who separated himself from the field at every restart, including the final green flag that set up a two-lap sprint to the finish. With Gordon hard on his tail, Stewart punched the brakes, throwing Gordon off just a bit, then hit the gas and was gone

Gordon, visibly upset with his runner-up finish, insisted he had the faster car. Stewart disagreed.

"Where was he at?" Stewart asked. "About seven-tenths [of a second slower per lap]."

With four races left before the Chase for the Championship begins, Stewart has opened up a comfortable 105-point lead. The top-10 remained virtually unchanged, but the collection of drivers vying for the final few spots - it will most certainly be limited to 10 - became even more crowded.

Four drivers, including Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick, are within 70 points of 10th place. Gordon was seemingly on his way to a top-five finish when a flat tire set him back. Still, he finished 14th and is now just 67 points out of 10th.

But even if Gordon does make it in, the real dilemma for him - and, for that matter, every driver who qualifies for the Chase - is how to compete with Stewart, who in the past seven races has won at two road courses, a one-miler and a 2.5-mile superspeedway.

Greg Zipadelli, Stewart's crew chief, was only half-joking yesterday when he said that lately he's noticed more and more eyes peering into their garage stall. "We're going to have to carve some eyes out," Zipadelli said. "[But] as long as they're looking at our stuff, they're not working on theirs."

The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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