Stewart Wins Red-Flagged Kmart 400
June 11, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
BROOKLYN, Mich. -– The ability to dodge rain drops and discovery of the right pit strategy gave Tony Stewart his second straight victory Sunday during the Kmart 400 at Michigan Speedway.
The rain-shortened and delayed event was called six laps early, at Lap 194, as a steady shower fell. Stewart, who started 28th on the grid, chose to take four fresh tires on the final pit stop. Robert Pressley, the eventual fifth-place finisher, took only two tires, and as the pair raced off of pit road, Stewart was able to catch him and take the lead for good on Lap 186.
Stewart credited the win to his No. 20 Pontiac crew.
"They were the guys that won it for us today. I didn’t win it on the race track. They won it for me and for all of us, in all reality," Stewart said.
"Robert was strong all day, we didn’t count him out, by any means. But we figured with the four tires we had a pretty good shot of getting by. We just needed to do it as quickly as possible and try to get a little bit of gap because of the line I was running."
Dale Earnhardt and Stewart ran side by side in the final laps, even going three-wide with Dale Jarrett at one point. Earnhardt finished second, while Bobby Labonte and Jarrett were third and fourth, respectively.
Prior to his victory at the MBNA Platinum 400 in Dover, Stewart appeared to be in a slump of sorts. The second-year driver, who had three victories in his rookie season, had eight top-10 finishes and was under scrutiny for comments made to the media. All he worried about during the waning laps of the event was that he had Earnhardt and Jarrett in his mirror.
"Those two guys will race you harder than anybody. It’s fun to be able to race those guys like that and race hard at the end and have a shootout. We’ll take them any way we can get them," Stewart said.
The seven-time Winston Cup champion felt that if the rain would have stayed away to complete the race, perhaps he could have made a good run on the Joe Gibbs Racing teammates.
"On a two or three-lap restart, I might could have mustered up to race ‘em hard. There was a lot of guys behind him there that might have could, too," Earnhardt said. "We did get by Jarrett, then the 18 (car of Labonte) raced me up off this corner coming to the caution flag. We were lucky to hang on to second. I think it was a Pontiac day if the rain had stayed away."
Stewart became the second driver, along with Dale Earnhardt Jr., to win two races during the 2000 season.
The Kmart 400 might have had a whole different outcome had the weather cooperated. Jeremy Mayfield led the field and when the red flag came out on Lap 151, he had a six-second advantage over Labonte. The driver of the No. 12 Ford would have several setbacks.
Prior to going back to green for a 96-minute rain delay, the leaders decided to take pit stops. Mayfield’s crew forgot to pick up his right rear tire, were penalized and had to start at the rear of the lead lap on the restart. His day would end with 24 laps to go when his engine blew up. Mayfield, who led 85 laps, wished the rain could have stayed away.
"Yeah, but I don’t want to win under rain. I’ve already lost two races at Darlington like that. I don’t want to win like that, I want to win straight up -- beat ‘em, get the checkered flag and be done with it, so I didn’t want to win like that anyway."
The next step on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit is next Sunday at Pocono Raceway for the Pocono 500.