July 15, 2007
JOLIET, Illinois (Ticker) -- Tony Stewart was NASCAR's best driver who had yet to win a Nextel Cup race this season. He no longer holds that dubious distinction.
Stewart finally broke through with a decisive win in Sunday's USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway after receiving a pep talk a day earlier from his team owner, Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs.
"We had a football locker room meeting," said Stewart, referring to a heart-to-heart that also included his teammate Denny Hamlin following last week's episode at Daytona where the two drivers crashed each other.
"We had a good talk and it was a good way to get us on the same page so we can move on."
It was Stewart's 30th career victory and his first since winning at Texas on November 5, a span of 20 races. He won at Chicagoland for the second time, already owning a checkered flag from his 2004 victory at this 1 1/2-mile oval.
"I'm more overjoyed than anything to get the monkey off your back for one week," Stewart said. "This should have been the fourth or fifth time I've won one of these.
"Today was a very textbook day for us. We started 19th, worked our way to the top 10 and got a caution. We really got on the same page today with some ideas. We knew track position was real important."
Stewart pulled away late in the race but had to manage several restarts for some late-race cautions. But all that did was delay the inevitable, as Stewart won the race before performing his famous fence-climbing celebration at the start-finish line.
"I made sure I drank a lot of water on that cool-down lap because I knew it was going to be tough to climb that fence," Stewart said. "After you've been sitting down in a race car for 3 1/2 hours, the hardest thing to do is to get out and try to climb something. I just took it one step at a time. I wanted to make sure I didn't slip and fall."
Stewart's Chevrolet Monte Carlo defeated Matt Kenseth's Ford Fusion by 1.727 seconds. Carl Edwards' Ford was third, followed by two-time Chicagoland winner Kevin Harvick's Chevrolet. Pole-sitter Casey Mears rounded out the top five in a Chevrolet.