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No Primary? No Problem.
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ATLANTAIt's only happened twice in the eight-plus years the No. 20 Home Depot Racing Team has been in existence - a crash in practice forces the team to run a backup car in the race. And in both instances it's happened at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. In 2004, Stewart slipped on a patch of oil from another competitor's blown engine and hit the turn three wall just minutes into the weekend's opening practice session. Onto a flatbed went the primary Home Depot Chevrolet and off Joe Gibbs Racing's transporter came the backup. And last year in a case of dejaÂ vu, Stewart cut a right front tire in turn three and crashed into the turn four wall. Again, the primary car came back to the garage on a flatbed and out of the hauler rolled the backup. But in both instances, destroyed race cars and a slightly bruised driver were simple hiccups in otherwise successful race weekends. In 2004, Stewart drove his backup race car to the win in dominating fashion, as he led five times for a whopping 160 of the race's 267 laps. And while no win was recorded last year, fill-in driver J.J. Yeley did a fine job of qualifying Stewart's Home Depot Chevrolet 13th. Since Stewart didn't qualify the car, he had to start at the back of the 43-car field. But it proved of little matter, for the eventual 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion picked his way through the field to log an impressive fifth-place finish - his fourth straight top-five at Chicagoland. Now Stewart returns to Chicagoland in much the same fashion he did last year. The two-time and reigning Nextel Cup champion comes into the USG Sheetrock 400 fresh off his victory last Saturday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. It was Stewart's second straight July win at Daytona, and it bumped him back into the top-five in points, 299 markers arrears series leader Jimmie Johnson. And with a nice bit of momentum firmly behind Stewart and the No. 20 Home Depot Racing Team, it appears unlikely to ebb at Chicagoland - despite the team's run of bad luck in Friday's opening practice session. Because even with wrecking two primary race cars in two straight visits to Chicagoland, Stewart has led a total of 275 laps in his last four Chicagoland starts - the most of all drivers. And from 2002 to 2005, he has finished third, second, first and fifth to log an average finish of third. As Stewart and Co., have demonstrated, even if there's no primary, there's no problem.
|TONY STEWART'S CHICAGOLAND PERFORMANCE PROFILE|
|2005||*USG Sheetrock 400||13||5||Running/267||0||$169,561|
*Car was qualified by NASCAR Busch Series driver J.J. Yeley