News & Media

Retro Racing: Stewart fashions surprise sweep at Dover in 2000

September 27, 2012, Mark Aumann,

Joe Gibbs Racing became the most recent organization to reach the 100-win milestone with Denny Hamlin's victory at New Hampshire. It all started with Dale Jarrett's stunning upset win in the 1993 Daytona 500 and as Gibbs has grown from a one-car operation into its current stable of three cars, so have the victories.

Dover 400 Results
2.J. Benson Tyler JetPontiac
3.R. Rudd YatesFord
4.S. Park DEIChevrolet
5.B. Labonte GibbsPontiac


2000 Cup Driver Ranks
2. D. Earnhardt RCR-265
3. J. Burton Roush-294
4. D. Jarrett Yates-446
5. R. Rudd Yates-555
6. T. Stewart Gibbs-560

Driver Comparison

2000 Labonte / Stewart
Fin. 21-worse28
Lead-Lap Fin.2825
Laps Led4651,212
Avg. Start11.616.7
Avg. Finish7.413.2

Joe Gibbs Racing

Victories at Dover
2000JuneT. Stewart
2000SeptemberT. Stewart
2008JuneKy. Busch
2010MayKy. Busch

The first 1-2 finish for Gibbs in Cup came at Richmond in 1999, when rookie Tony Stewart scored the first of his 47 wins. Stewart led 333 laps, including the final 144, to beat teammate Bobby Labonte to the line. They repeated the feat later in the season at Homestead.

Richmond also was the site of Gibbs' best three-car finish, when Hamlin won, Kyle Busch finished second and Joey Logano wound up fourth in the 2010 Air Guard 400.

Gibbs' team has had moderate success at Dover, with five victories at the Monster Mile. But only once has the former NFL coach celebrated a win in the fall race. That came in the 2000 400, and in surprising fashion.

Stewart had won at Dover earlier in the year, but after qualifying a dismal 27th -- nine spots worse than teammate and points leader Labonte -- it didn't seem like he'd have much chance at a repeat performance. After all, Dover's high banks and tight turns don't always make for easy passing.

But Stewart, who always has admitted he's not the best of qualifiers, knew he had a car capable of running up front if he could get there. And he said as much when asked about his chances.

"Poles are nice, but you get to take the picture with the big trophy on Sunday," Stewart said. "We know we run good on Sunday, and we're putting an emphasis on winning races."

But the unknown -- a new tire compound brought to the track by Goodyear -- began to play in Stewart's favor. There were a number of early race accidents, including one involving championship contender Jarrett, then driving for Yates Racing.

Ward Burton spun in Turn 4 and clipped the back end of Jarrett's Ford, sending Jarrett backwards into the concrete wall and eventually into the garage area for extensive repairs.

With a high number of cautions, Stewart not only was able to stay on the lead lap, but gain ground with every pit stop. By Lap 62, he already had gained 14 spots and cracked the top 10 within the next 15 circuits.

Jeremy Mayfield, Jeff Burton, Jerry Nadeau and Mark Martin all had cars equal to or better than Stewart's. But each ran into trouble that cleared the way for Stewart to eventually put himself in position for the win.

Burton and Nadeau both had tire issues before hitting the wall and, after leading 73 laps, Mayfield's motor gave up just past halfway. And when Martin was slowed by transmission trouble, Stewart pretty much had a clear pathway to the finish line.

He led the final 54 laps, beating Johnny Benson to the stripe by almost 7 seconds. And with Labonte finishing fifth -- and stretching his advantage in the standings to a season-high 249 points -- it turned out to be a great day for JGR.

"We were just kind of taking it easy, taking care of the car, trying to stay out of trouble," Stewart said in his post-race news conference. "It was the same car we ran in the spring and at Bristol. It works really good on concrete tracks."

It was Stewart's seventh win in less than two seasons after making the transition from open-wheel cars.

"If anybody had told me I'd have seven wins by this time in my second year, I would have told them they were crazy," Stewart said. "We want to go on winning every week, but it's not like we're in a competition to see who can win the most races. We just want to win as many as we can."

Stewart wound up winning six races that season but finished a distant sixth in the points, as Labonte cruised to the championship with 19 top-five finishes.

And that consistency obviously made an impression on Stewart, who used that same strategy to win the first of his three Cup championships two years later.

"I'm seeing what Bobby is doing this year, and realize how to do it," Stewart said. "I've won more races than he has, but I'm so far behind him in points, I could never catch up.

"I don't want to be a guy who wins tonight and then comes back to finish 32nd next week."

That race was the Cup debut for Kurt Busch, who also happens to be in the news this week. Busch -- who had just turned 22 -- finished 18th, two laps down in Jack Roush's No. 97 Ford. Busch's lone Dover win came last fall with Penske Racing.