Relief couldn’t come soon enough for Tony Stewart in the TUMS Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), started seventh but struggled with a tight-handling racecar throughout the entire 500-lap race around the .526-mile oval. He ended the day 27th, two laps down to race winner Jimmie Johnson.

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

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

“No matter what we did to the car – and we made a lot of adjustments – it didn’t do anything to make it better,” said Stewart, who enjoyed much better Martinsville outings before Sunday, as his three wins at the paperclip-shaped track attest (October 2000, April 2006 and October 2011).

Stewart’s SHR teammate, Ryan Newman, rallied his No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet from two laps down at one point to finish 11th. It was Newman’s 20th top-15 finish this season.

Johnson’s win in the TUMS Fast Relief 500 was the 59th of his Sprint Cup career, his fourth of the season and his seventh at Martinsville. It also allowed the five-time Sprint Cup champion to take the point lead with only three races remaining. Johnson leads second-place Brad Keselowski by two points heading into next Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

With Johnson’s victory, Chevrolet clinched the manufacturer’s championship for the 10th consecutive season and 36th overall.

Kyle Busch finished .479 of a second behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers, Bobby Labonte and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were 11 caution periods for 64 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish.

Stewart is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and came into the seventh race of the 10-race Chase in seventh place among the 12 Chase drivers, 47 points behind former Chase leader Keselowski.

Stewart leaves Martinsville 10th in the standings, 71 points behind new Chase leader Johnson.

Newman maintained his 15th-place point standing. He has 936 points, 70 back of 13th-place Busch.

With only three races remaining before a champion is crowned following the season finale Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the top-12 drivers competing for the title rank as follows:

1. Jimmie Johnson (2,291 points) +1 position(s)
2. Brad Keselowski (2,289 points, -2) -1
3. Clint Bowyer (2,265 points, -26) +1
4. Kasey Kahne (2,262 points, -29) +1
5. Denny Hamlin (2,242 points, -49) -2
6. Jeff Gordon (2,237 points, -54) +2
7. Martin Truex Jr. (2,228 points, -63) -1
8. Matt Kenseth (2,226 points, -65) +1
9. Greg Biffle (2,222 points, -69) +2
10. Tony Stewart (2,220 points, -71) -3
11. Kevin Harvick (2,203 points, -88) -1
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2,151 points, -140) +/-0

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the eighth race of the 10-race Chase – is the AAA Texas 500 on Nov. 4 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Source: Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR)