LONG POND, Pa. - Tony Stewart's second-place finish in yesterday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway was a big step in a winless 2008 season.
"I'm really happy," Stewart said after following Carl Edwards across the finish line. "I mean, for us, that's a win."
For the two-time Cup champion, it is only his fifth top-10 finish in the last 14 races and it solidified his chances of making the 12-man Chase for the championship, moving Stewart from 10th to ninth with only five races remaining until the start of NASCAR's postseason run.
Like Edwards and third-place finisher Jimmie Johnson, Stewart pitted during a caution for rain that turned into a downpour and a 41-minute red flag just past the halfway point in the race.
"It seemed like our car was an eighth to 10th-place car the majority of the day," Stewart said. "After the red, it seemed like our car came into it a lot more. The longer we went there, we finally got running with the guys that ran up front all day.
"That was a great feeling to be doing that again. When you get in a slump like we've been in this year, when you have had nine years of success, it's easy to take it for granted. Days like today remind you how much you appreciate having a good day."
TURNAROUND: Coming off a disheartening collision earlier at Indy, Kevin Harvick got off to a very bad start yesterday, getting spun out on the first lap by Joe Nemechek and winding up pitting and falling to the rear of the field before the race was two laps old.
But Harvick persevered, using strategy and a strong effort by his Richard Childress Racing crew to race to a surprising fourth-place finish that vaulted him from 13th to 11th in the season points.
"We don't give up," Harvick said. "I can promise you that. We stick in there and fight, even when they tell us we're done. To come to Pocono and finish in the top five is a huge accomplishment for me."
CHANGE COMING: In the wake of the tire debacle last week at Indianapolis, Goodyear said Friday it is working on new, bigger tires for NASCAR competition. But Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition for the sanctioning organization, said there's more involved than just tires in making such a change.
"Obviously, when you do different things like that, it's not just Goodyear and it's not just NASCAR, it's wheel manufacturers, it's suspensions and components," Pemberton said. "There's a lot of factors that go into that type of thing.
"We actually talked a little last year about some different things, and we've talked some more this year, long before Indianapolis," he added. "We had stuff on the board to try to get some testing in before the end of the year because we know, the sheer volume that we all deal with in parts and pieces and components and all that stuff, it will take a year to get stuff done. We can test, but it's about the other things that go on around the race car that we have to adjust to."
Pemberton said it's likely no major changes in tires will take place until 2010.
STILL LOOKING: Richard Childress is still looking for the right driver to add to his team.
He said earlier this year that Richard Childress Racing plans to add a fourth Cup driver for next season, joining Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer. But the search has dragged on.
"You've got to find the right person," Childress said. "You don't want to mess up the other three [teams]. But we're still working on it and I think we'll get it done in the next couple of weeks."
Two of the leading candidates for the RCR ride appear to be Casey Mears, who will leave Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the season, and Martin Truex Jr., whose future at Dale Earnhardt Inc. remains up in the air.
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