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What A Difference A (Rainy) Day Makes

On Saturday, Tony Stewart became the 22nd winner in 22 Nationwide series races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when he won the Camping World RV Sales 200. The win marked his fifth in the series this year, and the eight for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 car.

Stewart took two tires on his final pit stop under caution. He came out of the pits in third, and took over the lead three laps after the restart. He led the remaining 64 laps, with his JGR teammates, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch chasing him.

Stewart said:

That last stop is what won the race for us. To get track position and be able to stay up front and not have to overdrive the car or abuse the tires was the key to the win.

How ironic. Pit strategy led him to victory on Saturday and cost him the win on Sunday.

Stewart clearly had the car to beat for most of the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He led a race-high 132 laps, and appeared to be cruising to his first Sprint Cup win of the season and 33rd of his career.

But then… everything changed.

While Dale Earnhardt Jr. slowed to pit under green, Jamie McMurray rear-ended him like he was in one of Kasey Kahne’s Allstate commercials. “Super-sorry about your car, Junior.”

That brought out the caution with about 30 laps to go. Stewart, like many of the other leaders pitted, while others with nothing to lose, Kurt Busch, Michael Waltrip, and J.J. Yeley rolled the dice and stayed out. Stewart lined up in 13th on the final restart.

Shortly after the restart, Sam Hornish and Clint Bowyer got together brining out the caution, as the rain began to fall. NASCAR red flagged the race, and called it shortly thereafter, leaving Stewart with the best damn 13th place car I’ve ever seen.

In his interview shortly after the red flag was waved, you could hear the disappointment and frustration in Stewart’s voice:

This has been the oddest year for this race team. It’s the worst string of bad luck I’ve ever seen. But a percentage of this industry is luck, and you can’t change it.

The dejection in Stewart’s voice was a clear indication that Saturday’s win was long forgotten. What a difference one day makes.