Stewart, Mayfield fall into early hole in Chase
Accident with Robby Gordon takes both out of contention at NHIS
By Marty Smith, NASCAR.COM
September 19, 2004
05:32 PM EDT (21:32 GMT)
LOUDON, N.H. -- As far as Tony Stewart and Jeremy Mayfield are concerned, New Hampshire International Speedway is Elm Street and Robby Gordon is Freddy Krueger.
Gordon represented every Chaser's worst nightmare Sunday at NHIS, when he wrecked Greg Biffle in Turn 2 on lap 64 and took Mayfield and Stewart out in the process. "Innocent bystander, man," Mayfield said. "Those two shouldn't handle that on the racetrack. Robby Gordon and Biffle need to go outside the racetrack and fight, get it over with. Don't be a candy ass. Go outside and fight. Do it somewhere else."
Stewart and Mayfield were riding along, biding their time in the top 10 on Lap 64 when, just ahead of them, Gordon screamed into Turn 2 and wrecked Biffle. As a result, Biffle slid up into Mayfield -- badly damaging the left side of the No. 19 Dodge -- before coming to rest near the bottom on the track.
Stewart, unable to slow the Home Depot Chevrolet quickly enough, plowed nose-first into Biffle's Ford.
NASCAR penalized Gordon two laps, and disallowed him the opportunity to receive the Lucky Dog pass, thereby assuring the penalty stood at two laps and that Gordon could finish no higher than two laps down.
That was of little solace to either Chaser. "Robby will have his day," Mayfield said. "I don't know how we'll do it, but I'm just an innocent bystander here." Robby Gordon had no comment, but witnesses said he did offer a single digit salute to the media assembled behind his transporter.
Jeff Gordon, however, wasn't so silent after viewing a replay of the incident.
"It was absolutely ridiculous," Jeff Gordon said. "I think NASCAR handled it well, but unfortunately (Mayfield) and (Stewart) suffered because of it, and what are you going to do for them? There's nothing you can do to (Robby Gordon) to help in that situation.
"What happens between (Biffle) and (Robby Gordon) should be between those two guys. None of it should ever be taken out on one another on the racetrack. That's their battle. That's their thing. Accidents are going to happen on the racetrack, it's unfortunate when deliberate things catch guys."
Deliberate? Doug Richert, Biffle's crew chief, thought so, too. "There was no doubt he was going to (wreck us), because he said it on the radio," Richert said.
Both Stewart and Mayfield spent nearly 50 laps in the garage making repairs. Stewart's return was brief, however. After several laps NASCAR parked the Home Depot Chevy for failure to reach the minimum required speed of 32.17 seconds.
Getting caught up in someone else's mess was Stewart's biggest fear entering the Chase. Now that that's happened, he fears his championship hopes are dashed. "You can't do it with only nine more races to go," Stewart said. "That's been my concern all along about this and it happened to us in the first race. It's part of racing.
"We're leaving here early because we've got a tore up race car that got caught up in somebody else's wreck. That's just part of our sport. It's what happens. I can't worry about what the other guys do, all I can do go out and try to win the next nine races in a row."
Stewart finished 39th, and drops from fourth to eighth in the Nextel Cup standings. He's made impressive points comebacks before. During his 2002 Cup championship season, he finished 43rd in the season-opening Daytona 500.
"It wasn't but two years ago we left Daytona 43rd and came back and won, so it can happen again this year," Stewart said. "But trying to make up that amount of points in nine races is virtually impossible.
"I can promise you one thing -- this team's never given up and they're not going to give up now."
Nor is Mayfield's, it seems. The No. 19 team had to repair the left side damage and did extensive work to the battery compartment on the Evernham Motorsports Dodge.
Mayfield battled back to finish 35th.
"The car was great (before the wreck)," Mayfield said. "I was running fourth or fifth. Even after we wrecked we were running top-three (lap) times. The team did a real good job. We just came up short today."