NAPA Autocare 500 - Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, Virginia
Stewart started the race on the pole, but it looked like Rusty Wallace who was going to take the race in the beginning. He led 53 laps, but started to slide back when he had a tire going down. Other drivers who were very strong today were Jeff Burton, Ricky Rudd, Dale Earnhardt, and Sterling Marlin. Bobby Labonte finished 10th, still leading in the points.
The race was full of cautions. The track is small and the racing is close. Most passes were made in the pits, as were some crashes. The first caution came out on lap 16 when Stacy Compton spun coming out of turn four. He was able to keep going and stayed on the lead lap. Earnhardt Jr had the first of a few incidents on lap 52 when he had a tire go down and he slid up near the wall.
During that pit stop, Compton's car stalled on pit road, causing Micheal Waltrip to run into the back of him and Matt Kenseth hit Waltrip. Kenseth had to go to the garage for repairs.
On lap 58, Ward Burton stalled on the front stretch. He lost the engine and didn't finish the race. This put Jeff Gordon more solidly in ninth place in the points.
Jeff started the race in fifth, but slid back to eighth. He hung around that spot for most of the day. After a caution on lap 159 caused by Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven, Stewart decided to stay out when everyone else went in. Gordon took two tires and came out in third, behind Stewart and Kyle Petty.
It got exciting when it looked like Petty was going to take the lead. He was driving the #45 Sprint Pontiac that his son Adam was to drive. But, he couldn't complete the pass and started to slide back. Petty started in 27th and finished 31st after having two tires go down.
The two tires let Gordon stay in the top five for about 40 laps. Then, he started going backwards. Stewart, who hadn't pitted, lost the lead to Jeff Burton on lap 205. The caution came out on lap 242, allowing Stewart and Gordon to get fresh tires.
With 35 laps to go, Dave Blaney spun and brought out another caution. On the restart at lap 479, Sterling Marlin, who took two tires, came out with the lead. Stewart took four and Gordon took two. Sterling quickly got passed by Stewart, who opened up a respectable lead. But, Earnhardt was moving up.
When Earnhardt Jr crashed with 21 laps to go, Earnhardt Sr was in second. Earnhardt is the last person a driver wants to see behind him when he's leading a race towards the end.
Stewart took off and it looked like Earnhardt might make a run for it, but Burton battled with him. This caused Stewart to take off. There wasn't enough time to catch him. Stewart crossed the finish line first, with Earnhardt, Burton, Rudd, and Gordon rounding out the top five.
In Victory Lane, Stewart gave credit to his crew for a great job in the pits. "To beat guys like Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Burton at Martinsville is incredible." It was Stewart's first win at the track.