Stewart Gets Hard-Earned Top-10 at Richmond
It was far from glamorous, but the ninth-place finish Tony Stewart earned in Saturday night’s Crown Royal 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway was perhaps one of the hardest earned top-10s of his 13-year Sprint Cup career.
The driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) started deep in the 43-car field after qualifying only 31st. He struggled with an ill-handling car from the onset of the 400-lap contest around the .75-mile oval, so much so that he went a lap down on lap 76. Stewart stayed in that spot, hovering in the mid-20s, until finally earning the “lucky dog” when a timely caution came out on lap 257 for an accident in turn two. As the first car one lap down when the yellow caution flag waved, Stewart got his lap back, which allowed him to finally stretch the legs of his Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy, which crew chief Darian Grubb had tuned to be a much more efficient machine in the second half of the race.
Methodically, Stewart worked his way toward the front, cracking the top-20 on lap 264 and the top-10 on lap 289. Stewart rose to as high as sixth with 25 laps remaining before succumbing to the stronger cars behind him. Nonetheless, the two-time Sprint Cup champion held on to grab his 16th top-10 finish at Richmond and his third top-10 finish this season.
“We couldn’t make our car turn for anything. I mean, we have a lot of work to do right now,” said Stewart, who has three Sprint Cup wins and two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories at Richmond.
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Medicine Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished 20th. Stewart’s teammate had a strong racecar for the first half of the 400-lap race until a scuffle with Juan Pablo Montoya on lap 238 sent Newman spinning backward into the turn three wall. The damage led to multiple pit stops for repairs, and even with solid work by the No. 39 pit crew, the car was too battered to run as competitively as it had earlier in the race.
Kyle Busch won the Crown Royal 400 to score his 21st career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his third at Richmond. Busch has won the last three spring races at the .75-mile oval, while his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate, Denny Hamlin, has won the past two fall races at the Virginia short track.
It was Hamlin who finished 1.805 seconds behind Busch in the runner-up spot, giving JGR a 1-2 finish – the 10th such time JGR drivers have finished 1-2 in a Sprint Cup race.
Kasey Kahne finished third, while David Ragan and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, A.J. Allmendinger, Jimmie Johnson, Stewart and Brian Vickers comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 60 laps, with five drivers failing to finish.
With round nine of 36 complete, Newman fell one spot to eighth in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He now has 277 points and is 58 markers behind series leader Edwards. Stewart gained two positions to climb to 10th in the standings. He has 275 points and is 60 points back of Edwards.