For the first time in a span of 25 races, Tony Stewart secured a Top-5 finish with a fourth-place run on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
But it took a gutsy decision to do it.
Stewart had been running toward the front all day and was running in fourth when a caution came out for an accident with 10 laps to go. Like the rest of the leaders, he and his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team had to decide whether pitting for fresh tires would be worth it.
They figured it wouldn’t be, and Stewart stayed out on older tires. When the green flag came out with five laps left, Stewart was in the lead but it was only a matter of time before eventual winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. hunted him down.
Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman would also pass him in the final laps. But to Stewart, the fourth-place finish still felt like a victory.
“I still think we made the right decision,” Stewart told NBCSN at Martinsville. “If we had that scenario 100 times over, I think we’d still make that decision. I told [crew chief] Chad [Johnston], ‘Even if you call me in, I’m staying out – and if it goes wrong, then I’m gonna pay the price.'”
For more on Stewart and how his SHR teammate, Kevin Harvick, plans to rebound from his own poor result on Sunday, check out the full report above from NASCAR AMERICA’s Marty Snider.