Stewart Snares Second in New Hampshire
Office Depot/Mobil 1 Driver Part of Milestone 1-2 Finish for Stewart-Haas Racing
Tony Stewart the owner had a banner day Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. And Tony Stewart the driver also enjoyed a stellar outing in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Stewart drove his No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) – the team he co-owns with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas – to a strong second-place finish at New Hampshire after qualifying second, while his teammate, Ryan Newman, piloted his No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet to the win after taking the pole in Friday’s qualifying session. It marked the first time in SHR’s history where its drivers finished 1-2.
“Man, this is one hell of a perfect weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing,” said a beaming Stewart on pit road. “It was a sweet 1-2 in qualifying and 1-2 in the race. I’m so damn proud I can’t see straight. I’m proud of my buddy there (Newman) standing on top of his car. He deserved it. He did an awesome job this weekend.”
Newman led six times for a race-high 119 laps en route to his 15th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his third at New Hampshire. Stewart led twice for 48 laps before finishing .773 of a second behind his teammate. Together, they paced the field for 167 of the 301 laps available (55.5 percent).
“We put it on them today,” said Newman. “We’ll relish this moment and figure out what we did right so we can keep doing it.”
When Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing after a 12-year career with the championship-winning organization to form SHR in 2009, he took with him a core principle of Joe Gibbs’ success – you win with people. Sunday’s 1-2 wallop by SHR underscored that point.
“This really shows me the depth of the people we have in our organization,” Stewart said. “It’s been one of the weirdest years as far as bad luck happening to both of us, but our guys at our shop just keep plugging away, they keep working, they keep their chins up. That’s probably what I’m most proud of. It’s easy when things are going right, but when times are tough and you have a day like today, you see how your organization battles. That shows the character of what Stewart-Haas Racing is about, what our people are like. That’s probably what I’m most proud of in the last two-and-a-half years is how we’ve come from the first half of the season to a weekend like this.”
How much of a milestone was the 1-2 qualifying effort followed by the 1-2 finish?
The last time a team started 1-2 and finished 1-2 was Hendrick Motorsports in the 1989 Daytona 500. However, the last time a team started 1-2 and finished 1-2 with the same drivers in the same order was back on April 7, 1957 at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway with DePaolo Engineering. There, Fireball Roberts won from the pole, while teammate Paul Goldsmith started second and finished second. In Hendrick’s instance, Darrell Waltrip won, but started second. Ken Schrader started from the pole and finished second.
“Getting our first- and second-place qualifying efforts – that’s the first time that we’ve done that as an organization,” said Stewart. “We were both happy with our cars yesterday. We were quickest in the morning session. The second session, when it got warm, we weren’t quite as happy with our car, but Ryan was still happy with his. That was encouraging.
“And I’m really proud of my crew chief, Darian Grubb. He found out yesterday he’s got pneumonia. He’s battling through a weekend like this and never missed a beat on the box today. I’m really proud of what he did. That was a tough day and a tough weekend for him, feeling bad.
“But it was an awesome job by everybody. Ryan has been spot-on all weekend. His crew chief, Tony Gibson, everybody has done a great job working through the weekend together.”
Much of the work that went into the New Hampshire race weekend involved blending handling and horsepower with fuel mileage. The 1.058-mile oval has seemingly always forced teams to manipulate fuel mileage to the best of their abilities, and Sunday was no different.
In order to win, Newman had to stretch his fuel to cover the final 85 laps. Stewart and Grubb knew they didn’t have enough fuel, so when the caution flag waved on lap 226, they ducked onto pit road to pack the fuel cell full, ensuring their Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy could go the distance, even if the race was extended a few laps by a green-white-checkered finish. But, that also meant Stewart restarted in 23rd.
Newman had to work hard to feather the throttle while still turning quick lap times. Stewart, meanwhile, was hammer down as he worked his way toward the front. With eight laps to go, they were running 1-2.
“I’d rather have Stewart behind me than anybody else,” Newman said. “I have a lot of respect for him. I know the way he races. If we were side-by-side coming to the checkered, we’d have smoke coming off the fenders, because that’s the kind of guys we are. We’re not going to crash each other, but that’s the kind of guys we are.”
“He got the lead pretty early. I knew how short (on fuel) we were,” Stewart said of his teammate. “I didn’t know what kind of mileage they were getting for the day, if they were getting better mileage than we were.
“I think hindsight being 20/20, I don’t mind running second and having him win the race versus us winning the race and him running out of fuel. This is a much more gratifying weekend for me.
“But I can promise you, I didn’t leave anything out there. That was as hard as I could run till the end. I couldn’t get the rest of the way. I couldn’t get any further than that.
“I got in a period when I caught Jeff Gordon. I think he was running fourth or fifth at the time. I got to his bumper but I couldn’t really do anything. I ran about three laps where I kept slipping the rear of the car, just got the tires hot. I basically had to back away from him and run my pace again, just let everything cool down. Then we made that second charge at him and were able to get by him and keep marching forward.
“The problem was, to do what we did to get to second, I mean, I used everything up getting there. That was as far and as close to Ryan as I could get.”
Denny Hamlin finished third behind the SHR duo, while Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five. Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Martin Truex Jr., Marcos Ambrose and Kurt Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 44 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish.
With round 19 of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR duo in the championship point standings. He moved up one spot to eighth and now has 586 points, 66 markers back of new series leader Carl Edwards and 16 points ahead of 11th-place Stewart, who maintained his position. Stewart currently has 570 points, which puts him 82 points behind Edwards while giving him a 28-point cushion over 12th-place Clint Bowyer.
The Sprint Cup Series takes a rare weekend off before heading to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the July 31 Brickyard 400. The 18th annual event begins at 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at noon.
“This is a perfect way to go into an offweekend, for sure, especially going into Indy,” said Stewart, an Indiana native who is a two-time Brickyard 400 winner (2005 and 2007). “This is big for everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing.”