‘Dega Delivers Top-20 for Stewart
Office Depot/Mobil 1 Driver Gets Shuffled Out of Top-10 in Waning Laps
Tony Stewart emerged from Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway with an undamaged racecar and a 17th-place finish. Typically, a result like that would leave Stewart stewing, but at Talladega, where racing is a crapshoot and a driver’s result is dependent upon help from other drivers, the bar is set low.
While no one was high-fiving the top-20 effort, crew members clad in Office Depot/Mobil 1 uniforms were happy to load a straight racecar into the team transporter, something that couldn’t be said for many of their counterparts.
Certainly, a better result was the aim, and Stewart’s No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala was poised for at least a top-10 finish before race-long drafting partner David Gilliland had to let off the gas ever so slightly to avoid a spinning Dave Blaney. The hiccup broke the draft between Stewart and Gilliland, briefly losing momentum for the two and allowing Kurt Busch to suck in behind Stewart’s bumper.
The draft, however, is fickle, and Busch proved it by quickly jockeying over to push another car, which left Stewart hanging, momentarily, before Gilliland caught back up with his Talladega teammate.
The successive breaks in momentum jettisoned Stewart from a surefire top-10 effort to an ambiguous 17th-place finish. Not great, but not bad either – especially by Talladega standards.
“This thing is a crapshoot,” said Stewart after the race. “You try to do your best and think ahead and put yourself in the right position to do what you think you need to do, and it still doesn’t work.
“But I think what we were trying to do was right, and I had the right guy pushing me. David (Gilliland) was a workhorse. He could push me all day, it seemed. And when he did, it was solid. We never really had any dramas. Obviously, we were hoping for a better result, but David finished ninth and I’m happy for him. He sure earned it.”
You try to do your best and think ahead and put yourself in the right position to do what you think you need to do, and it still doesn’t work.
Stewart’s official teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Ryan Newman, had a solid day undone by back-to-back spins incurred from inopportune bump-drafts from his Talladega teammate, Denny Hamlin. Newman led three times for six laps around the 2.66-mile oval, but wound up 25th after having to pit multiple times to repair his No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet.
There were 88 lead changes among 26 drivers during the race to tie the all-time Sprint Cup record for lead changes, first set at Talladega last April. And there were six caution periods for 24 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 188-lap race.
With round eight of 36 complete, Newman remained seventh in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He now has 253 points and is 42 markers behind series leader Edwards. Stewart dropped two positions to 12th in the standings. He has 240 points and is 55 points back of Edwards.
After a rare weekend off to celebrate Easter, the Sprint Cup Series returns to action April 30 with the Crown Royal 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.