WWD: Dickies 500

Jonathan Baum

How the race was won

Stewart
Stewart

Stewart Tony Stewart's No. 20 easily was the class of the field Sunday. Some late cautions created some doubt, but even with four fresh tires Jimmie Johnson was no match for Stewart, who drove away on a green-white-checkered restart to score his second win in as many weeks.

Story of the race

Stewart's roll.

The points shakeup, including Johnson taking the lead and Jeff Burton taking a Chase bow.

Some extracurricular activity after the race.

And, of course, Terry Labonte.

Give 'em credit

Stewart and the 20 team. Impressive.

These perhaps are words the rest of the Chase field didn't want to hear: "The championship is Jimmie Johnson's to lose."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Great comeback, gritty effort. All enough to keep his title hopes alive. Denny Hamlin's Sunday story, while not nearly as dramatic, isn't totally dissimilar.

Nice weekend for Clint Bowyer. In fact, all the rookies fared pretty well.

Other notables: very nice effort from Harvick and the 29 team; solid showing by Kyle Busch; Casey Mears shows he's not impacted by lame duck status; Kurt Busch gives Penske Racing a little to be happy about Sunday; and Jeff Gordon fades a little but still is solid in the top 10.

Kyle Petty and Jeff Green both continue to show signs of life.

What were they thinking?

Arguing in the garage is one thing. Shoving crew members, officials, drivers and their wives is quite another.

Still, Scott Riggs was doing all he could to block a couple of lanes of traffic there. And didn't it seem like Harvick – who continues to toy with the Busch Series field – did plenty of complaining Sunday? Some of his protests had merit, and to be clear, his complaints regarding the postrace incident were absolutely justified.

Better luck next time

Kahne
Kahne

Kahne Kasey Kahne. Ouch.

Riggs. Despite it all, he could have had (and deserved) a top-five finish.

Jeff Burton. How fast it all unraveled. He's now seventh in points; the top five are the only drivers with legit title shots now.

Reed Sorenson. He recovered relatively well, but his spin took away a likely top-10.

Robby Gordon. Maybe the blown engine was karma from the roll bar padding gods?

Johnny Benson. Two weeks with golden opportunities to gain major points, two mechanical failures. That series' title race is becoming less interesting by the minute – which is too bad, as the Benson-Todd Bodine battle was shaping up to be a good one.

Will guys like Sterling Marlin and Ken Schrader ever have good luck again?

Think Greg Biffle just can't wait for Homestead?

By the way …

Was Terry Labonte's finale a little anticlimactic? Probably to be expected. Nice prerace ceremonies. And while it's too bad Rick Hendrick didn't give Labonte a great race car on Sunday, at least he actually gave him the race car. Labonte's earned the accolades and adoration.

NASCAR slammed Robby Gordon for the roll bar padding incident, and Gordon protested that the penalty was too severe and inconsistent with NASCAR precedent. Both Gordon and NASCAR are right. Drivers intentionally causing cautions is a big problem that needs to be addressed, and that's what NASCAR is doing. But changing rules and/or penalties for rules infractions in the middle of a season could be considered borderline unfair. Regardless of whether one thinks the money and points penalties assessed to Gordon were appropriate on merit, Gordon allegedly broke a rule knowing exactly what the consequences would be – but NASCAR changed the consequences. That kind of inconsistency is a Pandora's Box that NASCAR probably needs to close.

Grading the race

The finish saved this one. The early and middle stages of this race, save for a little Matt Kenseth (has anyone ever worked that hard for a 12th-place finish?) and Earnhardt Jr. drama, were boring. But the last 100 laps became more interesting as some drivers positioned themselves for the finish while others continued to try to come back from earlier problems. The late green flag cycle and ensuing caution made for a wild finish, but much of the on-track action (save for a few highlights) just wasn't up to snuff. And no, it might not be fair for one driver's utter dominance to hurt a race's grade, but so be it. Blowouts (not the tire kind) are incredibly impressive in NASCAR but not always fun to watch. Grade: C

From the source

Tony Stewart: "We've finally hit our stride it looks like. We hit it three months too late."

Terry Labonte: "I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to be doing, but anyway it's where we are."