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Addington attentive to Stewart's needs before, during race

June 25, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com



Addington attentive to Stewart's needs before, during race
SONOMA, Calif. -- Crew chief listens to driver to improve the car, then adjusts late-race strategy

One of the secrets to being a good crew chief is being a good listener, and Steve Addington proved Sunday that he's adept at both.

After Stewart struggled all weekend and qualified 24th, Addington heard what Stewart had to say about the car and suggestions that might help the No. 14 Chevrolet find some speed. Then he paid attention to the voice of experience in his mind, the one telling him late in the race that he needed to deviate from his original two-stop strategy.

"I just try to pay attention to what the driver's telling me and what I feel like [the car] needs."

--STEVE ADDINGTON

"I just try to pay attention to what the driver's telling me and what I feel like [the car] needs," Addington said. "I've had great groups of people around me at the time, too, to help me with direction when I have an idea."

Stewart came home second behind Clint Bowyer, giving Addington his third finish of first or second in the past five races on the 1.99-mile, 11-turn Sonoma road course -- all with different organizations.

Last year, Addington was on the pit box for Kurt Busch's dominating win for Penske Racing. In 2007, he orchestrated a 30th-to-first run for Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing.

"I am really proud of Steve Addington and the guys," Stewart said. "They really worked hard the last two days. We just couldn't get happy with it on Friday or Saturday, but they got a car [Sunday] that was really, really good.

"We started too far back, but I think myself and Brian Vickers probably had two of the best cars. Obviously [Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer] were really strong all day, too."

Addington's original idea was to work the fuel mileage game and finish the race with just two stops. Stewart executed that game plan to perfection, getting 34 laps out of the first tank of fuel and 38 more from the second.

But because the race ran without a caution that entire time, Stewart found himself in something akin to "one step forward, two steps back." Even though he steadily moved through the field, he found himself losing ground to the leaders.

Stewart eventually broke into the top 10 by Lap 50 and was hovering just outside the top five, but he was running more than 20 seconds behind.

"When you're starting outside of the top 15 or so, it's hard to make up time," Addington said. "Tony did a great job driving up through there like that to the top 12 there on that first run. We were making up time, but the leaders just had gotten away from us.

"So we had to do what our car would allow us to do [Sunday]. That's what the game plan was. You get farther behind on green-flag stops because you lose track position. But we had to do what we had to do."

Compounding the situation was that the car's full tank didn't fill completely on what should have been Stewart's final stop. Now he knew he needed a break.

* Press Pass: Stewart talks about fortunate misfortune

That came in the form of the race's first caution, when Tomy Drissi slapped the wall in the esses on Lap 82. Not only could Addington call Stewart in to make sure he had enough fuel to get to the finish, but also he could use the opportunity to give him new tires.

"We were in a position there that there weren't that many cars on the lead lap," Addington said. "I figured that every one of them was coming in because tires were important. And we had eight laps on those things, so we decided to put four fresh ones on it and try to win the race."

Instead, the top six cars stayed out. Now Stewart had everything working in his favor: a fast car and the leader in his sights.

"We just had eight or 10 laps fresher tires than those guys," Stewart said. "We still had to fight our way through there. We had a really good car. We just took all day to get the track position."

Stewart had worked his way into third when the day's second and final caution came out for a two-car spin in Turn 7, setting up a green-white-checkered finish. After the restart, he was able to get past Busch's wounded car, but Bowyer was too far in front for him to chase down in one lap.

"To end up running second like this is just a really good effort for all of our guys," Stewart said. "I'm really proud of Steve Addington [because he] never gave up this weekend. Nobody ever gave up on trying to find something that was going to be a little bit better."