LATE-RACE GAMBLE DOESN'T QUITE PAY OFF FOR STEWART Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Finishes 11th in AAA Texas 500 It was the right call at the time but, as it turned out, there weren't quite enough laps left in Sunday's AAA Texas 500 NASCAR ...
LATE-RACE GAMBLE DOESN'T QUITE PAY OFF FOR STEWART
Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Finishes 11th in AAA Texas 500
It was the right call at the time but, as it turned out, there weren't quite enough laps left in Sunday's AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for Tony Stewart to take full advantage of the four fresh tires he pitted for during a late-race caution. As a result, the driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) had to settle for a still-respectable 11th-place finish.
Stewart and the Office Depot/Old Spice team decided to forego a trip down pit lane during a lap-200 round of stops under caution by the leaders. In return, Stewart and his No. 14 Chevrolet were awarded second place on the racetrack behind then-leader Greg Biffle and a solid top-five finish looked increasingly promising.
But then, when the caution flag flew again just six laps from the race's conclusion, Stewart, who was in sixth at the time, felt he had no choice but to pit for four fresh tires while the rest of the front-runners opted to stay out on track. He restarted in 16th when the green flag waved on lap 332 of the scheduled 334-lap race and was able to make up five spots, but no more.
"Hindsight being 20-20, I probably should've stayed out, but we took a gamble and, really, what do we have to lose?" said Stewart, who now has 12 top-12 finishes in 18 career Sprint Cup appearances at the Texas track. "We really don't have anything to lose. We're eighth in points, so who cares? I'd rather take a chance on doing something to go forward than worry about losing spots and going backward.
"I know there are lots of teams that are grateful to run eighth in points, but we're not one of them. It doesn't mean anything to me at this point. I want to do everything we can to try to go forward and gain everything we can get. If that means taking a chance, knowing that we can lose points and lose spots, so be it.
"I thought that was the right thing to do, but it obviously wasn't. We'd already stayed out once on those tires and it worked out then, but I don't know that I was good enough to stay out again. I might've finished a couple of spots better, but I'd rather take a chance on finishing better than finishing worse."
Stewart's SHR teammate Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet Impala, finished 20th.
Denny Hamlin won the AAA Texas 500 to earn his 16th career Sprint Cup victory, his series-high eighth win of the season, and his second victory and eighth top-10 finish in 11 Sprint Cup races at Texas. Hamlin also won the April Sprint Cup race at Texas and became only the second driver to sweep both Texas races in the same year. Carl Edwards won both Texas races in 2008.
Matt Kenseth crossed the finish line .488 of a second behind Hamlin in the runner-up spot, while Mark Martin, Joey Logano and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Jimmie Johnson and Paul Menard comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 40 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish.
Stewart represents SHR in this year's Chase for the Championship. He came to Texas seventh among the top-12 drivers competing for this year's title, 317 points behind Chase leader Johnson. His 11th-place finish dropped him one position to eighth in the standings, where he is now 363 markers arrears new Chase-leader Hamlin.
Newman maintained his 15th spot in the standings, the third-highest non-Chase driver, 121 points behind 13th-place Martin.