When Sunday's NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway began, Tony Stewart was on the short list of those who were expected to contend for the win in the Goody's Fast Relief 500.
After an eventful race, though, it wasn't Stewart the driver standing tall in Victory Lane but Stewart the car owner celebrating as his other team – featuring driver Ryan Newman – scored the unexpected win.
"I'm ecstatic for Ryan," said Stewart, whose two-car Stewart-Haas Racing team won for the third time this season. "I got to see it on the replay during the caution after all the havoc broke loose. Ryan made an awesome move to the bottom. He was heads up enough to get in the gas and get through that hole before it closed up. He definitely earned this one, for sure."
Surprisingly, on a track where he won on last October, Stewart was nonfactor for much of the afternoon. Starting 15th, the owner/driver gained little ground through the early stages and lagged behind for much of the day on the outskirts of the top 10, even going down a lap in the closing 100 laps.
But like the other car he owns, Stewart battled back from being a lap down, and when the caution waved with two laps to go thanks to David Reutimann's stalled car, Stewart found himself back on the lead lap courtesy of the free pass.
With the chaos that ensued on the following green-white-checkered restart brought on by contact among the leaders, Stewart was able to drive through the madness and into the top 10, leaving Martinsville with a hard-fought seventh-place finish.
"Unfortunately, we had our worst run of the day the last run of the day," Stewart said, talking about the last 100 laps when he went a lap down. "We got behind there and got a lap down, but clawed back to get the lucky dog and rallied back to seventh."
With his third top-10 of the season, Stewart moved up one spot in the standings to third as the series heads into its first off week of 2012 before traveling to Texas Motor Speedway for the year's first Saturday night race, the Samsung Mobile 500.