Tony Stewart 16th at Phoenix.
Tony Stewart had a solid top-10 finish in his grasp Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway until an ill-timed caution with less than 65 laps remaining in The Profit on CNBC 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race left Stewart with a 16th-place finish.
Stewart had piloted his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS from 20th in the 43-car field to as high as eighth on lap 235 of the 312-lap race. A routine, green-flag pit stop on lap 237 for four tires and fuel set Stewart up for a strong run to the finish.
Stewart earned his lap back, but instead of being eighth, he was mired in 15th. The sudden loss of track position proved detrimental, as Stewart’s forward progress was stymied.
In an effort to make some gains on those ahead of him, Stewart pitted for four tires and fuel during another caution period on lap 278. He came in 15th and left 15th, and when the race restarted, he remained 15th.
When another caution came on lap 298 for oil on the track, Stewart pitted again for four fresh Goodyears. He emerged in 19th and rallied his way to 16th in the final nine laps of green-flag racing.
It was a far cry from the finish Stewart wanted, but his result was at least buoyed by the win scored by his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS.
Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, congratulated Harvick in victory lane for the team’s first win of the season and SHR’s 20th since its inception in 2009.
“Kevin had the best car yesterday in practice, so I’m glad to see those guys finish it up,” Stewart said, alluding to the fact that Harvick was the fastest driver in the two practice sessions on Saturday. “Kevin had a lot of confidence in Rodney (Childers, crew chief). I didn’t know Rodney that well, but Kevin’s pretty keen on all aspects of this. He’s been confident all winter with our program, and today it showed. They’ve been working hard.”
Harvick started 13th and led four times for a race-high 224 laps en route to his fifth Sprint Cup win at Phoenix, where he is now the all-time leader in Sprint Cup victories. It was also Harvick’s 24th Sprint Cup victory in 468 career starts.
On the other end of the racing spectrum were two more SHR teammates – Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch.
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS, finished 36th after getting caught up in a lap-172 accident. Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, ran in the top-10 for much of the day but finished 39th after his engine expired on lap 298.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished .489 of a second behind Harvick in the runner-up spot, while Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top-five. Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 38 laps, with four drivers failing to finish.
With round two of 36 complete, Harvick leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is fourth, 11 points behind series leader Earnhardt. And with the victory, Harvick punched his ticket to the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Stewart is 20th, 53 points out of first. Kurt Busch is 30th, 61 points out of first. Patrick is 39th, 77 points out of first.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Kobalt 400 on Sunday, March 9 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race starts at 3 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its prerace show at 2 p.m.