Debris Caution Derails Stewart’s Drive to Victory
Mobil 1/Office Depot Driver Finishes Third at Richmond after Leading 118 Laps
With 25 laps to go in the Capital City 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, Tony Stewart held a 2.06-second lead over second-place Kyle Busch. With his No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet in its own ZIP code, Stewart’s sights were set on a third victory this season and a 47th career win in Sprint Cup.
But when the caution flag waved for debris with 12 laps remaining, Stewart’s commanding advantage evaporated. All the lead-lap cars pitted, and after taking on four tires and fuel, Stewart emerged in second, as Busch’s team beat him off pit road.
The final restart on lap 392 did not go well. Busch was on the inside lane, Stewart on the outside. Busch got the jump going into turn one of the .75-mile oval, and as Busch motored off into the lead, it left the door open for Dale Earnhardt Jr., to take second. After leading four times for 118 laps in the 400-lap race, Stewart had to settle for third.
“That’s the best car I’ve had here at Richmond in a long, long time,” said Stewart, who now has 18 top-10 finishes in 27 career Sprint Cup starts at Richmond and has led a total of 935 laps. “It was something I felt really comfortable with today. It was good right off the bat, and I’m proud of Steve Addington (crew chief). He just kept making it better and better and better.
“We were where we needed to be at the end of the day. This is my favorite track, so it feels good to be running well here at Richmond again.”
Stewart is a six-time winner at Richmond – three victories in Sprint Cup (September 1999, May 2001 and May 2002), two wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (2002 and 2003) and one Late Model stock car win, as Stewart won the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown – a 75-lap charity Late Model stock car race – Thursday night.
To say he was disappointed that a debris caution thwarted his bid for a seventh win and fourth in the elite Sprint Cup ranks is an understatement.
“When the caution is for a plastic (water) bottle on the backstretch, it’s hard to feel good about losing,” Stewart said.
“Stewart was phenomenal,” said Busch, who went on to win the race. “I hate it for him that we had a caution like that. He deserved to win the race.”
While Stewart took little solace in the result, his third-place finish maintained his eighth-place point standing. Even more importantly, Stewart’s fourth top-10 of the year lopped 16 points off the deficit between him and championship leader Greg Biffle, while also creating a 20-point cushion over ninth-place Carl Edwards.
Teammate Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Army Reserve Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, finished 15th. He is now 10th in the championship standings with 278 points, 60 out of first.
Busch’s win in the Capital City 400 was his 24th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his fourth at Richmond. He has now won four consecutive spring races at Richmond, breaking a tie with Richard Petty, who won three straight spring races at Richmond from 1971 through 1973.
Earnhardt finished 1.095 seconds behind Busch in the runner-up spot, while Stewart, Hamlin and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five. Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 31 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish.