Dover, Del. Tony Stewart needs a tremendous rally at Dover to keep his perfect Chase season alive.
Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet has not performed like the car that romped to victories in the first two races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He was horrible at practice, and that carried over into Saturday’s qualifying, where he turned a lap of 156.760 mph and will start the third Chase race 27 spots behind polesitter Martin Truex Jr.
Stewart’s two wins have only given him a seven-point cushion over Kevin Harvick entering today’s race. With four Chase drivers starting in the top six at the concrete mile, this could be the race where the standings get rattled.
Stewart had little explanation for his struggles, other than saying his car was tight.
History shows all is not lost for Smoke. He started 27th in the second Dover race in 2000 and won. In the first Dover race in 2009, he finished second after starting 31st. If any driver knows how to work his way through traffic, it’s Stewart.
He could run into Truex leading the way.
Truex returned to the site of his only career Cup win and turned a lap of 159.004 mph to win the pole at Dover International Speedway. He crashed the Chase party with his first pole of the season. He won his only career Cup race in 2007 at the Monster Mile.
“I love this place,” Truex said. “I feel like I understand what it takes to get around this place. I’ve just been fortunate enough to have good race cars here.”
Truex, of nearby Mayetta, N.J., has long considered Dover his home track. Truex, 18th in the points standings, has two of his six career poles at Dover.
Chase driver Kurt Busch was second. Paul Menard was third. Chase drivers Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson took the next three spots.
Like Stewart, four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon also struggled during qualifying and starts 34th.
Denny Hamlin, all but out of contention, starts 11th. Brad Keselowski was 15th, Matt Kenseth 18th, Ryan Newman 20th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 21st, and Harvick starts 22nd.
Round 3 of the Chase promises to create some separation among the Chase contenders and the pretenders.
Gordon is in fifth place and a manageable 23 points behind Stewart. His poor start might not help him move up the standings.
Kurt Busch is 28 points out in ninth place. He’s counting on his strong qualifying start to serve as a preview for what’s ahead in the 400-mile race.
Stewart has taken up residence in Victory Lane this Chase, with wins at Chicagoland Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
He’s found it hard to keep it up at Dover. He was a miserable 41st in Friday’s final practice session, topping out at 150.735 mph, and his team couldn’t fix whatever ailed the No. 14 in time for qualifying.
“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Stewart said.
Edwards wins Nationwide race
Dover, Del. — Carl Edwards dominated again at Dover International Speedway, winning his seventh race of the season in the Nationwide Series.
Edwards celebrated Saturday with his traditional back flip, then jumped into the stands to celebrate with fans.
Edwards said before the race his Sprint Cup car was better than the No. 60 in the second-tier series. He could use another win to strengthen his push toward his first career Cup championship.
Brad Keselowski was second, Clint Bowyer third and Kasey Kahne fourth. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was fifth.
Edwards is not eligible to win the Nationwide championship. He has top-two finishes in each of his last four races.
Hoey builds on Dunhill lead
St. Andrews, Scotland — Michael Hoey moved closer toward giving Northern Ireland another big golf victory, taking a three-shot lead Saturday after three rounds of the Dunhill Links Championship.
Hoey built on the second-round lead he shared with England’s Tommy Fleetwood. He shot a 6-under 66 at Carnoustie that put him at 18-under 198 in the $5 million tournament.
Northern Irishmen Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy — winners of the last two U.S. Opens — were in pursuit. McDowell had a third straight 67 and is in second place at 15 under.
Louis Oosthuizen shot a 69 and is another stroke behind. McIlroy had a 66 and is among those at 13 under with top-ranked Luke Donald and Simon Dyson.
Watney, Na lead in Vegas
Las Vegas — Nick Watney shot a 7-under 64 on Saturday for a share of the third-round lead with Kevin Na in the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Watney, a two-time winner this year, birdied the final three holes and five of the last six at TPC Summlerin to match Na at 17 under. Na followed his second-round 63 with a 66.
Robert Garrigus (63) and Kris Blanks (66) were a stroke back, and Tommy Gainey (64), Paul Goydos (66) and Tim Herron (67) followed at 15 under.
NBA stars put on a show
Winston-Salem, N.C. — Kevin Durant scored 48 points, and Chris Paul added 39 to lead the New Orleans guard’s team to a 175-146 victory over Dwyane Wade and LeBron James’ team in a charity game Saturday night.
Rudy Gay had 38 points while Wade added 32 and James had 30. John Wall added 34 points.
The game was played at Winston-Salem State in front of a sold out crowd in the 3,200-seat arena.
Paul, who is from nearby Lewisville, gave a $25,000 check to WSSU during a football game earlier in the day. Both of his parents attended Winston-Salem State.
Young defeats No. 9 Monfils
Bangkok — American Donald Young advanced to his first ATP Tour final, rallying to beat ninth-ranked Gael Monfils 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) Saturday in the Thailand Open.
He’ll play Andy Murray, who defeated Gilles Simon 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.
The 55th-ranked Young trailed 4-1 in the third set before rallying to 4-4. He recovered from 5-3 down in the tiebreaker to win after Monfils’ eighth double-fault.
The fourth-ranked Murray won 88 percent of points on his first serve in the opening set before stumbling in longer rallies during the second against the 2009 champion. Murray reached 3-0 and 5-2 against Simon in the third but needed six match points to win.
Former Titans assistant dies
Nashville, Tenn. — Mike Heimerdinger, a veteran assistant in the NFL who coached players including Steve McNair, Jay Cutler and Vince Young, has died. He was 58.
The Tennessee Titans confirmed Heimerdinger’s death after talking with his family. He died Friday while in Mexico to receive experimental treatments for a rare form of cancer. He was offensive coordinator for the Titans when he was diagnosed with cancer in November 2010.
Heimerdinger was in his second stint as the Titans’ offensive coordinator. The man called “Dinger” was college roommates with Mike Shanahan and helped coach McNair to co-MVP of the NFL with Peyton Manning in 2003 during his first run in Tennessee.