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Race at Lowe's marred by tire problems
Stewart lost his lead in a race that featured an event-record 15 cautions.
CONCORD, N.C. -- Tony Stewart made no effort to mask his disgust after finishing a race in which he feared for his safety.
He wasn't alone.
Kevin Harvick had called on NASCAR to halt Saturday night's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway after a rash of exploding tires turned the event into a dangerous debacle.
"This is the biggest joke in racing I've ever seen," said Harvick, who crashed hard after blowing a tire.
"It's just terrible," he added. "Everybody is just out there, knowing that at any moment the tires are going to pop. It's pretty disgusting and pretty embarrassing for our sport."
Asked what NASCAR could do to fix the problem, Harvick didn't hold back: "Throw the checkered flag and get the hell out of here," he said. "That's the best thing they can do."
A smooth, sleek surface at Lowe's -- the result of track president Humpy Wheeler twice using a grinding process on the asphalt as a temporary fix until he could repave it -- created high speeds Saturday night that proved too fast for the tires Goodyear provided.
In all, the race was marred by an event-record 15 cautions, including 12 for accidents, and most were the result of blown tires. Five of the 10 Chase for the Championship drivers had tire problems, including Stewart, who crashed hard into the wall after he cut a tire while leading the race.
Stewart -- who at one point radioed his crew that he needed "a renewal of my life insurance policy" when they asked if he needed anything -- ended up finishing 25th and blew all of his 75-point advantage in the standings. He is now tied at the top with Jimmie Johnson, who had his own tire problem but still managed to win his fourth consecutive race at Lowe's.
"It's just one of those screwed-up nights that's probably going to dictate the way the Chase comes out," Stewart growled. "It's over with. We're stuck with it the way it is.
"It just sucks when you're the fastest car and something that's out of your control happens like that that really shouldn't happen."
NASCAR took the unusual step of issuing a mid-race mandate on air pressure requirements for the right front tires, then sent its inspectors up and down pit road to make sure teams were obeying the order. Those reluctant to meet the mandate were told they would be docked points.
"I thought I'd seen all the craziest things I'd think I could ever see in this sport," Stewart said, "and [this] just proved to me there will be something else down the road that will keep that line open in my head that we're not done seeing stupid things happen."
NASCAR president Mike Helton defended his mandate.
And Goodyear spokesman Phil Holmer said more than half of the blown right front tires were attributed to teams starting with lower-than-recommended air pressure and the company "told and told and told [teams] to keep their air pressures up and for some reason they don't want to do it."
UAW-GM Quality 500
Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.; Lap length: 1.5 miles
1.Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 336 laps, 120.334 mph, $264,991.
2. Kurt Busch, Ford, 336, $222,625.
3. Greg Biffle, Ford, 336, $156,050.
4. Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 336, $154,308.
5. Mark Martin, Ford, 336, $128,900.
6. Casey Mears, Dodge, 336, $138,908.
7. Ryan Newman, Dodge, 336, $145,641.
8. Denny Hamlin, Chevrolet, 336, $92,325.
9. Ricky Rudd, Ford, 336, $112,214.
10. Carl Edwards, Ford, 336, $100,275.
11. Jeremy Mayfield, Dodge, 336, $108,870.
12. Brian Vickers, Chevrolet, 336, $86,850.
13. Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 336, $86,150.
14. Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 336, $101,520.
15. Kyle Petty, Dodge, 336, $90,233.
16. Johnny Sauter, Dodge, 336, $68,875.
17. Travis Kvapil, Dodge, 336, $81,525.
18. Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 336, $107,550.
19. Jeff Green, Dodge, 336, $99,911.
20. Scott Wimmer, Dodge, 336, $90,783.
21. Kevin Lepage, Ford, 336, $71,675.
22. David Reutimann, Chevrolet, 336, $66,600.
23. Kasey Kahne, Dodge, 336, $105,025.
24. Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 336, $100,188.
25. Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 328, $139,561.
26. Matt Kenseth, Ford, 326, $113,561.
27. Elliott Sadler, Ford, 326, $157,001.
28. Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 291, $112,136.
29. Michael Waltrip, Chevrolet, 278, accident, $95,214.
30. Dale Jarrett, Ford, 278, accident, $102,433.
31. Jamie McMurray, Dodge, 278, accident, $75,075.
32. Robby Gordon, Chevrolet, 278, engine failure, $64,375.
33. Scott Riggs, Chevrolet, 267, accident, $82,747.
34. Ken Schrader, Dodge, 255, engine failure, $64,125.
35. Mike Bliss, Chevrolet, 252, accident, $63,975.
36. David Stremme, Dodge, 243, accident, $63,790.
37. Stuart Kirby, Chevrolet, 213, handling, $63,670.
38. Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 151, accident, $112,596.
39. Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 150, accident, $71,450.
40. Sterling Marlin, Dodge, 124, accident, $91,248.
41. Bobby Hamilton Jr., Chevrolet, 94, accident, $63,215.
42. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 61, accident, $110,508.
43. Mike Wallace, Chevrolet, 40, timing chain, $63,318.