Stewart-Haas Racing press release
Stewart Gets Hard-Earned Top-10 at Charlotte
Mobil 1/Office Depot Driver Finishes Eighth in Bank of America 500
Tony Stewart dominated the first half of Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway by starting from the pole and leading three times for 94 laps. Through no fault of his own, however, the second half of the 334-lap race didn’t go nearly as well, but Stewart persevered to rally his way to a hard-earned eighth-place finish.
“We were good off the front there, just when we got back in traffic we got really tight. That was kind of the theme of the night,” said Stewart after earning his 14th top-10 of the season and his sixth top-10 in the last nine races. “Our car seemed to change balance-wise a lot more in traffic than some of the other cars did.”
Stewart held the point for the first 42 laps around the 1.5-mile oval, relinquishing the lead during a period of green-flag pit stops from laps 43-46. The driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) was back in the lead by lap 47, but only for three laps as a surging Greg Biffle took the top spot away from Stewart on lap 50.
Stewart hung in the top-three before reasserting his presence at the front when a two-tire pit stop while under caution on lap 148 put him back in the lead. The next 48 laps were paced by Stewart until another round of green-flag pit stops jumbled the running order.
Once that series of pit stops cycled through, Kyle Busch was on top with Stewart in second. They ran that way until more green-flag pit stops began to take place on lap 236, and it was there where Stewart’s once dominant run got derailed.
Stewart pitted under green on lap 236 for a scheduled, four-tire pit stop. Unfortunately, the caution came out three laps later, catching Stewart a lap down. It was just plain, rotten luck, with the only saving grace being that Stewart was the first car one lap down when the caution came out, allowing him to regain his lost lap and restart on tail end of the lead lap.
When the race restarted on lap 243, Stewart was in 13th. The clean air he had enjoyed at the front of the field was now gone, and the wake created by the 12 cars ahead of him wreaked havoc with his car’s aerodynamics.
“I feel like I’m treed behind these guys,” said Stewart over the team radio on lap 256. “I can only go as fast as they go.”
Fifteen laps later, nothing had changed. “It’s hard to believe how aero-dependant these cars are. I just keep getting tighter and tighter,” Stewart added.
Those radio conversations came during a stretch of green-flag racing, and by lap 286, it was time for another round of green-flag pit stops.
Stewart stopped for four tires and fuel, and then in a case of déjà vu, the caution came out a lap later, momentarily putting Stewart a lap down.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” said Stewart on the radio.
Stewart took the “wave around” where any car that doesn’t pit under caution can get a lap back if every car on the lead lap does pit. It put him back on the lead lap, but mired in 14th.
Aided by a three-car spin that brought out the caution on lap 294, Stewart rose to ninth. And through two more caution periods between laps 301-303 and 318-322, Stewart was able to run down Denny Hamlin to pick up eighth before the checkered flag fell.
“The clean air was really, really valuable to us,” said Stewart, who now has 12 top-10 finishes in 26 career Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte. “We would be tight in a run, but we could still hold them off. But when we got back in traffic a little bit, we could not get the car to turn in the center of the corner. We just kept getting tighter and tighter.
“In the end, we just kind of rallied back.”
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Cookies for Kids’ Cancer/Gene Haas Foundation Chevrolet Impala for SHR, led six laps early in the race before finishing 10th. It was his eighth top-10 finish in 22 career Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte and his first top-10 result since finishing eighth four races ago at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
Matt Kenseth won the Bank of America 500 to score his 21st career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his second at Charlotte.
Kyle Busch finished .968 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick, A.J. Allmendinger, Stewart, Hamlin and Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 34 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish.
Stewart and Newman are both in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup and came into Charlotte seventh and 11th, respectively, in the Chase standings. Stewart was 19 points behind Chase leader Edwards, while Newman was 54 points out of the top spot. Stewart leaves Charlotte fifth in points, 24 markers behind Edwards. Newman moved up one spot to 10th in the standings and is now 61 points out of first.