POCONO RACEWAY, POCONO, PA.
WINNER: Carl Edwards POLE SITTER: Michael Waltrip
CURRENT POINTS LEADER: Jimmie Johnson, 2,062 (+123 over Greg Biffle)
WHAT HAPPENED: After prepping for the race by playing a NASCAR video game in
his hauler, Edwards punctuated his second win of the season with his trademark
backflip. The rookie vaulted to fourth place in the point standings.
THIS RACE IN 2006: June 11, Fox/FX
MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, BROOKLYN, MICH.
WINNER: Greg Biffle POLE SITTER: Ryan Newman
CURRENT POINTS LEADER: Jimmie Johnson, 2,173 (+49 over Greg Biffle)
WHAT HAPPENED: Biffle led 63 laps, including--after he decided to stay on the
track when most of the leaders pitted for fresh tires--the final 30. It was the
eighth win of the year for Roush, which placed three cars in the top five.
THIS RACE IN 2006: June 18, Fox/FX
INFINEON RACEWAY, SONOMA, CALIF.
WINNER: Tony Stewart POLE SITTER: Jeff Gordon
CURRENT POINTS LEADER: Greg Biffle, 2,250 (+22 over Jimmie Johnson)
WHAT HAPPENED: Despite losing fourth gear, then having to drive one-handed
while steadying the gearshift in third, Stewart ran strong all day and passed
Ricky Rudd on a hairpin turn with 10 laps to go to win the race.
THIS RACE IN 2006: June 25, Fox/FX
7/2 PEPSI 400
DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.
WINNER: Tony Stewart POLE SITTER: Tony Stewart
CURRENT POINTS LEADER: Jimmie Johnson, 2,378 (+73 over Greg Biffle)
WHAT HAPPENED: Stewart dominated this rain-delayed race from start to finish,
leading all but nine of the race's 160 laps. He celebrated the victory by
climbing to the top of the flag stand (above) to grab the checkered flag.
THIS RACE IN 2006: July 1, Fox/FX
BRINGING IT ALL
BACK HOME: Tony Stewart
In Racing, There's No Place Like Indy
MINUTES AFTER the
final race of the 2004 Nextel Cup season Tony Stewart told friends that he was
packing and heading west. For six years he had lived just north of Charlotte,
the hub of NASCAR, but now he was moving back to his childhood home in
Columbus, Ind., a town of 39,000 located 40 miles south of Indianapolis.
( Stewart's parents, who are divorced, live in separate towns nearby.) The move
made him one of only a few drivers who don't reside in the Southeast, and for
Stewart going home again has done a stunning thing: It has transformed his race
"I'm just so
much more relaxed now," he says as he sits on the porch of his small
three-bedroom house. "This is the house I grew up in. Every morning when I
open the door and let the dog out, it reminds me of when I was a kid. Life
isn't complicated for me here. I can get in my plane and be at the shop in
Charlotte pretty quickly. But I really don't need to be there. Where I need to
be, for my own peace of mind, is here."
In this season's
first four months Stewart's performance was up and down. Then, on June 6 and 7,
the Home Depot team tested at Michigan International Speedway. In that test
Stewart and crew chief Greg Zipadelli hit the jackpot: They found a way to set
up the suspension on the number 20 Chevy so it would grip the track through
turns just a smidgen better than competitors'. "If you think I'm going to
tell you what we've found, you're crazy," says Stewart, who has won four of
the last six races, including the Aug. 7 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
"This is the best stretch of racing I've ever had."
Two weeks after
the test Stewart was second at Michigan. Seven days later he won on the road
course in Sonoma, Calif. The next week was Daytona, and after crossing the
start-finish line to win that race, he drove to the flag stand. A few days
earlier he'd dreamed about scaling the fence and taking the checkered flag from
the flag man; now he wanted to do just that. So Stewart crawled out of his car,
climbed the 12-foot-high fence and grabbed the flag, to the roar of the crowd.
Two weeks later he won in New Hampshire. When he again climbed the fence
("Honestly, I'm too fat and too old to be doing that," he says), he was
amazed at what he saw: Even fans wearing Dale Earnhardt Jr. shirts and Jeff
Gordon hats were cheering wildly. The image makeover of NASCAR's bad boy was
officially a success. -- LARS ANDERSON
REPRINTED FROM SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Aug. 8, 2005
TAKING A FENCE
Stewart (center) and his crew performed a high-wire act after his victory at
the Allstate 400 at Indy.