Stewart Fights Ill-Handling Car To Finish Disappointing 25th at Dover, Falls To Third in Points

Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Tony Stewart struggled with an ill-handling racecar and finished a disappointing 25th in Sunday’s AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), reported early on that his car was tight in the center of the corner and it seemed that no matter what crew chief Darian Grubb threw at the problem, a solution could not be obtained. After starting 25th, Stewart was never able to crack the top-20 and finished two laps behind the leaders when the checkered flag fell after 400 laps around the 1-mile, concrete oval.

“When you run 25th and you’re two laps down, I don’t think you assess it as very good,” Stewart said. “We were terrible. It was just the whole package. Even when we got the balance halfway decent we didn’t have speed. We just missed it.”

With Stewart struggling with an ill-handling car, early leader Carl Edwards set a blistering pace, and with a caution-free segment of the race taking place during laps 46-138, the Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet went a lap down following a round of green-flag pit stops on lap 110.

From there, Stewart and Grubb tried valiantly to get the lap back, but with the car uncooperative and another extended green-flag run during laps 185-257, they continued to fall backward and ended up two laps off the pace.

“The biggest thing is just that we don’t have the concrete tracks figured out,” Grubb said. “It’s obvious. At Bristol (Tenn.) and Dover, we’ve just struggled for three years now with Tony there. We just need to figure out what we need to do. It’s not because of a lack of effort. We’re going to keep trying to find a few things and keep fighting.”

Stewart’s SHR teammate, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army ROTC Chevrolet Impala, finished 23rd as he also struggled with the handling of his racecar.

Kurt Busch won the AAA 400 to score his 24th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his first at Dover.

Jimmie Johnson finished .908 of a second behind Kurt Busch in the runner-up spot, while Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five. Kyle Busch, A.J. Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose and Kevin Harvick comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were 10 caution periods for 44 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish.

Stewart and Newman are both in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup and came into Dover first and 11th, respectively, in the point standings. Stewart was seven points ahead of second-place Harvick, while Newman was 34 points out of the top spot. Stewart leaves Dover third in points, nine markers behind new Chase leader Harvick. Newman remained 11th in the standings, but is now 41 points arrears Harvick.

Harvick and Edwards each have 2,122 points, but because Harvick has four wins compared to Edwards’ one, Harvick was awarded the top spot. Stewart and Kurt Busch each have 2,113 points as well as two wins this season, but Stewart’s two runner-up results compared to Busch’s lone second-place finish allowed Stewart possession of third place.