The Food City 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway has typically been a feast or famine affair for Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. But...
The Food City 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway has typically been a feast or famine affair for Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. But after finishing 17th in Sunday's 500-lap race at Bristol, Stewart left the .533-mile oval neither ravenous nor full.
In the past three Food City 500s -- NASCAR's spring visit to Volunteer Country -- Stewart has seen victory snatched away from him. The two-time Sprint Cup champion has led a whopping 769 laps of the 1,510 laps available (50.9 percent). Yet, all Stewart had to show for his efforts were finishes of 12th, 35th and 14th.
While Sunday's 17th-place effort in no way placated Stewart the driver, the effort that went into getting the best result possible pleased Stewart the owner.
"We got in position to get our lap back but never got the caution when we needed it," said Stewart, who went a lap down just past the midpoint of the race. "We missed it once with the 44 car (A.J. Allmendinger) getting it back, and once we got back in position to get the lucky dog, there was another long, green flag run and we never got the caution until the leaders got back to lapping people again."
Even with a racecar that slipped and skidded through the track's 30-degree banked corners, Stewart displayed a tenacious effort to earn the "lucky dog," the designation given to the first driver a lap down when the caution flag comes out. The driver in that position gets his lap back, and in turn, is back in position to race with the leaders.
Time, however, was not on Stewart's side. Even with a green-white-checkered finish that extended the race three laps past its scheduled 500-lap distance, earning the lucky dog was not in the cards.
Nevertheless, Stewart dropped only one spot in the championship point standings to seventh, 161 markers arrears series leader Jeff Gordon.
What was in the cards was a good run for Stewart's SHR teammate, Ryan Newman. The driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet started a season-best second, took the lead from pole-sitter Mark Martin on lap three, and proceeded to lead the next 25 laps before finishing a season-best seventh.
"I'm happy for Ryan and all the guys on the 39," said Stewart, who saw his teammate rise four spots to 27th in points, 319 behind Gordon. "They've all been working hard, and it's hard to not let your morale get beat up having the kind of bad luck they've had. It's not because they haven't been running well. It's because they've had terrible luck. It was good to see them get a good run like they deserved today. I'm sure they would've loved to have had a top-five, but this helps them out a ton in the points. I'm really proud of everyone."
Kyle Busch won the Food City 500 to score his 14th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Bristol. Interestingly, Bristol is the only track where Busch has won twice in Sprint Cup.
Finishing .391 of a second behind Busch was his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin, while three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, Gordon and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five. Martin, Newman, Jeff Burton, Columbia-native Juan Pablo Montoya and Australia-native Marcos Ambrose comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 58 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the March 29 Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.