DOVER, Del. - Tony Stewart said he's ready to go 500 miles at Pocono.
Driving only 38 achy laps at Dover International Speedway was a nice personal victory for the defending NASCAR champ, though.
Stewart battled soreness in his broken shoulder blade Sunday in a gritty performance that guaranteed him points in the title picture. Stewart seemed to have trouble lifting his right arm before he was eased into his No. 20 Chevrolet, but it didn't really affect his performance.
Ricky Rudd relieved him and drove the car to a 25th-place finish, two laps off the lead.
"I feel like I got beat up," said Stewart, who fell a spot to fifth in the standings.
Stewart, who stayed out long on a caution to give Rudd more time to get ready, made a quick exit, lifting himself halfway out already unstrapped and with his helmet off before he was gently pulled out the rest of the way.
Stewart said he never felt comfortable and complained of some soreness.
"This isn't very much fun," he said. "It is hard to explain to people how hard it is to get out of your own race car."
Stewart proclaimed himself ready to drive all 500 miles next week on the tricky 2½-mile triangle at Pocono. Rudd could remain on standby.
Rudd drove his first Nextel Cup laps since he was called out of his self-imposed hiatus after Stewart was knocked out of last week's event at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Rudd turned the 10th fastest lap of qualifying on Friday, but the car started at the back of the field because of the driver change.
Rudd fell a lap down just past the halfway point of the 400-mile race.
ROUGH WEEKEND: Jimmie Johnson's rough weekend took a terrific turn thanks to cautions that marred the second half of the race.
He started in the back of the field after a spectacular spin during qualifying, had to share a pit box and spent most of the race a lap down. When he got the free pass, he patiently made his move and finished sixth. Johnson retained his overall lead, holding a 74-point edge over Dover winner Matt Kenseth.
Johnson barely missed the walls as he finished his first qualifying lap Friday climbed out of his starting spot in 42nd place. Then, he was forced him to share a pit stall with Scott Wimmer. Johnson's crew then reached a deal to pit Wimmer's car, also.
While it worked out for Johnson, the race went south for Wimmer.
Johnson pitted first on a caution, and Wimmer's No. 4 Chevrolet ran out of fuel on lap 118 and had to be pushed down pit road. When Hermie Sadler dropped out of the race on lap 151, Wimmer's crew took the stall. Wimmer finished 34th.
GO, GO GORDON: Robby Gordon made it back to Dover early Sunday morning after running in the Baja 400 on Saturday.
"The races couldn't be any farther apart," Gordon said. "Why couldn't this be a Phoenix weekend or even a Texas weekend? I'd take that."
Eight hours after finishing 16th last Sunday night in the 600-mile Nextel Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Gordon began his 11,200-mile odyssey, flying to Ensenada, Mexico, to spend three days practicing for the Baja 500 off-road race. He made the 2,800-mile flight to Dover on Thursday for practice and qualifying. He then returned to Ensenada for the 7-hour Baja 500 on Saturday morning.
Gordon, who finished 36th, reboarded his plane and took an overnight flight to Dover for the Neighborhood Excellence 400. He said he fell asleep around 1 a.m. EDT and woke up when the plane landed at 6 a.m. He slept another 4 hours at the track.
Gordon, considered one of the most versatile drivers in racing, said he had no plans to slow down his hectic schedule.
"Golf is a cool sport, but If I'm going to go out and do something, I'd rather go racing," he said.
TEAM MEMBER KILLED: Michael Fermaglich, the pit boss for Roush Racing's No. 17 Busch Series team on race day, died Friday night in a car accident in Concord, N.C. He was 32. "This is obviously a sad day for Roush Racing," said Jimmy Fennig, crew chief for the Busch team. "Mike was a hard worker and a valuable part of our team both at home and on the road."
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