SO-SO RACE, BUT NOW IT'S ONTO THE CHASE Stewart 16th at Richmond, Starts 10-Race Chase Sixth in Points After winning last weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart came into Richmond (Va.) International ...
SO-SO RACE, BUT NOW IT'S ONTO THE CHASE
Stewart 16th at Richmond, Starts 10-Race Chase Sixth in Points
After winning last weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart came into Richmond (Va.) International Raceway with his eyes set on collecting another victory and another 10 bonus that he could carry into the 10-race Chase for the Championship. It was not to be, as Stewart finished 16th in Saturday night's Air Guard 400, but the driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/ Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is still a championship contender, as he's seeded a solid sixth in the Chase, 50 points behind top-seed Denny Hamlin.
"Tonight wasn't a good night, but we still have that momentum off of last week," said Stewart, who typically runs well at Richmond as evidenced by his five victories at the .75-mile oval -- three in Sprint Cup and two in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. "I'm really proud of our guys and everybody on this Office Depot/Old Spice team and all of our partners -- everybody who's been a part of this program the last two years and helped us build this to put us in a position where we can be in the Chase two years straight. The arrow is still pointing up, in my opinion. It wasn't a good night tonight, but we have 10 good weeks coming up. We have 10 weeks to see what we've got."
Richmond marked the last race of the regular season, as the Chase for the Championship now begins. This is Stewart's sixth appearance in the Chase and he won the Chase in 2005 -- the second year of the format -- to collect his second Sprint Cup championship. (Stewart's first championship came in 2002 under the old NASCAR Winston Cup Series format.)
"Darian (Grubb, crew chief) and I have a year-and-a-half of notes now. We've just gotten so much confidence working with each other," said Stewart, as Grubb is just the second crew chief Stewart has had in his 12-year Sprint Cup career, and it's a relationship that began in 2009. "We got such a slow start to the year, but we never... we got frustrated, but we never got discouraged with each other. That's something I had done in the past with Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, Stewart's crew chief from 1999 through 2008 at Joe Gibbs Racing). I got battling with my own guys and that's something I've learned -- better late than never. I wish I would've done this the 10 years I was with Greg, but you learn as you go. That's what we've been doing all year."
Ryan Newman, Stewart's teammate and driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala, finished 11th in the Air Guard 400. While it was a solid effort, the result was not enough to put Newman inside the 12-driver Chase for the Championship, as he leaves Richmond 13th in the point standings, just 98 markers behind 12th-place Greg Biffle.
Denny Hamlin beat his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate Kyle Busch by .537 of a second to win the Air Guard 400 and score the 14th victory of his Sprint Cup career, his series-high sixth of the season and his second at Richmond. The win was especially meaningful to Hamlin as he grew up in Chesterfield, Va., just 22 miles from Richmond International Raceway.
Finishing third was four-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. JGR driver Joey Logano finished fourth, while Marcos Ambrose, Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya, A.J. Allmendinger, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were three caution periods for 28 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 400-lap race.