Solid Start For Stewart
September 19, 2005 | 4:02 P.M. EST
But even "Smoke" had to be somewhat pleased with his runner-up finish to Ryan Newman in Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire.
After moving into the top spot with eight laps to go, Stewart couldn't hold Newman back any longer and following a side-by-side duel for several laps, the ALLTEL/Mobil 1 Dodge finally worked its way around the Home Depot Chevrolet with two laps to go.
"It's awesome," Stewart said. "That's the way a race at Loudon should finish, with three guys in the Chase running hard at the end like that. We had some damage on the left front and that cost us at the end. It was just tight racing there at the end. We did everything we could do today. I think we ran about as good a race as we could run here. We just came up a little short today."
The damaged left front came when Stewart clipped Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s Chevrolet as the No. 8 was heading off of turn four and down pit road during the final round of green flag stops. Never one to mince words, Stewart took the blame for the contact.
"Well, obviously I ran into him now, didn't I?" he said.
Stewart was also nearly on the receiving end of damage from the Robby Gordon-Michael Waltrip tangle, once when Gordon tried to back into Waltrip under caution and a second time after the celebrated helmet toss into the side of the No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet.
Fortunately for Stewart, he escaped unharmed and after the race didn't want to address the incidents.
"I'm not commenting on that stupid stuff that happened today," he said. "Ask me about my race. If you want to ask me about racing, talk to me about that. If not, don't waste my time today.
"No, I wasn't concerned about the helmet hitting my car. Thanks anyway."
So Stewart leaves round number one of the "Chase" in the same spot he entered Sunday's race - on top of the standings. But being in front at this point of the season doesn't mean much to Stewart.
"It means we're leader this week," he said. "It's all in the mouth right now. This week is over and we did everything we could here and we'll go next week and try to do it again."