Keeping Pace

Practice crash sends Stewart to the rear

Tony Stewart takes a closer look at his No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet during practice Saturday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. A spin through the grass during the first practice damaged Stewart's car and will send the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader and Pocono 500 pole sitter to the back of the field in a back-up car. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)  (Jason Smith / The Spokesman-Review)
Tony Stewart takes a closer look at his No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet during practice Saturday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. A spin through the grass during the first practice damaged Stewart's car and will send the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader and Pocono 500 pole sitter to the back of the field in a back-up car. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR) (Jason Smith / The Spokesman-Review)

Forced to go to a backup car for Sunday's race, Stewart must drop to the rear before the field takes the green flag. The backup car is chassis No. 450, which Stewart drove to a 26th-place finish (his worst of the year) at Las Vegas.

By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

LONG POND, Pa.--Friday's qualifying rainout gave Sprint Cup points leader Tony Stewart the top starting spot for Sunday's Pocono 500.

A Saturday practice crash in Turn 2 at Pocono Raceway took the position away. The rear end of Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet stepped out as he entered Tunnel Turn (Turn 2) during the first Cup practice session Saturday morning. Stewart slid through the infield grass at the exit of the corner and damaged the front end of his car so severely that it could not be repaired in time for the final session.

Forced to go to a backup car for Sunday's race, Stewart must drop to the rear before the field takes the green flag. The backup car is chassis No. 450, which Stewart drove to a 26th-place finish (his worst of the year) at Las Vegas.

"I went off into the grass, but I hit the right front of the splitter with, I guess, one of those access roads or something and ripped the whole nose off of it," Stewart said. Before the incident, Stewart had posted the third fastest time in the first practice. After switching to the backup car for Happy Hour, he was sixth fastest in the session.

"This car will be good," Stewart promised.

PRACTICE IS A GOOD PREDICTOR AT POCONO

Practice times on Saturday often don't provide an accurate indication of who will be fast on Sunday. Greg Biffle says Pocono is an exception -- and he's happy about it.

"We think the track is going to be pretty similar tomorrow, maybe a little slicker than it is now," Biffle said Saturday after posting the third fastest time in final Cup practice. "So I really feel like these times are going to translate over to (Sunday).

"The guys are pretty happy with the lap times. ... They think we have a top-five car, and that's good for us here. The car's handling decent. We'll look to see if we can improve it at all for (Sunday) and be ready to go."

Biffle's only top-five finish in 12 starts at Pocono came in 2004.

SHORT STROKES

Robby Gordon will be joining Stewart at the rear of the field for the start of Sunday's race, but not because of a car or engine change. Gordon was in and around Ensenada, Mexico on Saturday, competing with co-driver Andy Grider in the Baja 500 off-road race in his No. 77 Chevrolet trophy truck. While Gordon was racing in the Mexican desert, Travis Kvapil practiced the No. 7 Toyota at Pocono, where he was 34th fastest in Happy Hour. ... Thanks to a late entry on the part of the Larry Gunselman team that was fielding a car for driver Mike Wallace, Dexter Bean will make his Cup debut Sunday in the No. 51 Dodge. Bean was the last driver in the field under NASCAR's rainout rules.




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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.






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