STEWART CAN'T 'BANK' ON IT AT CHARLOTTE Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Finishes 21st in Bank of America 500 With a win Labor Day weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway and another victory last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., ...
STEWART CAN'T 'BANK' ON IT AT CHARLOTTE
Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Finishes 21st in Bank of America 500
With a win Labor Day weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway and another victory last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., many looked to Tony Stewart for another strong outing in Saturday night's Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. After all, the 1.5-mile oval is a sister venue to Atlanta with a similar layout, and Stewart's performance at the 2-mile Fontana oval was further indication that Stewart's prowess on intermediate-style tracks was stout.
That conventional wisdom was dealt a blow, however, when Stewart could not overcome an ill-handling racecar in the 334-lap contest. He wound up 21st, the last driver on the lead lap.
Stewart was never able to crack the top-10 throughout the three-and-a-half-hour affair, and his No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot "Showtime" Chevrolet Impala had trouble less than three miles into the 500-mile event.
On lap two, his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate, Ryan Newman, crashed in turn three. When Stewart slowed for the accident, another competitor's car clipped Stewart's Chevrolet on the right-rear corner, causing moderate damage. Stewart pitted for three consecutive laps under caution to repair the damage and had to restart in 39th when the green flag dropped on lap seven.
From there, Stewart managed to crack the top-20, but the erratic handling of his Old Spice/Office Depot machine kept him between 17th and 22nd for most of the race. Crew chief Darian Grubb threw every adjustment he could think of at the stubborn machine, but none seemed to do the trick. Adding to the perplexity of the matter was that the car was the same one that delivered Stewart to victory lane six races ago at Atlanta.
As if things weren't bad enough, Stewart twice had trouble entering his pit box correctly, which cost the team valuable time in the pits.
"It was just a comedy of errors," Grubb said. "We evidently just missed it on the setup. Not really sure what happened. We just weren't fast enough on restarts or anything. Then mid-run we could be OK, but by the end we had no track position. We had to fight to try to get track position all night and just never got it. Anytime we had a hope that we were getting somewhere, we got stuck in our pits two or three times, or missed our pit box or something. It was just a mess."
Newman, who suffered heavy damage to his No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala during his second-lap crash, finished 36th and completed only 272 laps.
Jamie McMurray won the Bank of America 500 to score his sixth career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his second at Charlotte. McMurray earned his first career Sprint Cup win at Charlotte on Oct. 13, 2002 as the interim driver for an injured Sterling Marlin.
Kyle Busch finished 1.866 seconds behind McMurray in the runner-up spot, while Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, David Reutimann and David Ragan comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 39 laps, with six drivers failing to finish.
Stewart represents SHR in this year's Chase for the Championship. He came into Charlotte fifth among the top-12 drivers competing for this year's title, 107 points behind Chase leader Johnson. His 21st-place finish dropped him to sixth in points, 177 markers arrears Johnson.
Newman also dropped in the standings. He had been the highest non-Chase driver in the standings at 13th, 60 points ahead of 14th-place McMurray, coming into Charlotte. He's now 14th in points, 75 markers arrears 13th-place McMurray.