STEWART SEVENTH AT LAS VEGAS Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Scores Second Straight Top-10, Rises to 11th in Points Tony Stewart knocked down his second straight top-10 finish with a solid seventh-place effort in Sunday's Shelby American NASCAR ...
STEWART SEVENTH AT LAS VEGAS
Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Scores Second Straight Top-10, Rises to 11th in Points
Tony Stewart knocked down his second straight top-10 finish with a solid seventh-place effort in Sunday's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) led twice for seven laps in the 267-lap race.
"We ended up seventh, which is alright, but you always want more," said Stewart, who finished ninth in last Sunday's race in Fontana, Calif. "I struggled on restarts. It took a couple laps to get going, and when you lose so much time here on restarts like that, it makes for a long day."
Stewart started ninth and never fell out of the top-10. By lap 13, he had risen to seventh, a spot he would hold for much of the race. Yet even with a car that was tight in the center of the track's corners and loose on exit, Stewart would occasionally post a lap as fast, if not faster than, the leaders.
Crew chief Darian Grubb massaged the chassis through a series of wedge, track bar and tire pressure adjustments during the team's regularly scheduled pit stops. And thanks to quick work by the Old Spice/Office Depot pit crew, Stewart was able to crack the top-five after 90 laps around the 1.5-mile oval.
But as Stewart alluded, restarts were his Achilles Heel. After starting fourth on lap 93, Stewart fell to seventh by lap 108. And when he started fourth for another restart on lap 114, he was back in seventh by lap 120.
Stewart's time at the top of leaderboard came during two green flag runs where teams had to make scheduled pit stops. Stewart stayed out to lead laps 164-165 and laps 215-219 before making his requisite trips to pit road.
The two-time Sprint Cup champion was in fifth-place when the race's final caution came out on lap 230. With only 11 drivers on the lead lap, the call was made to come to pit road for four tires and a splash of gas. Four tires, reasoned Stewart and Grubb, were better than two tires or no tires at all, as some opted for track position over a trip to pit road.
Those three strategies then played out in the race's final 33 laps. Clint Bowyer, who had stayed out, led the field to green. Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin took just two tires and restarted second, third and sixth, respectively. Everyone else took four tires, which included Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, who lined up fourth and fifth, respectively, while Stewart slotted in at -- you guessed it -- seventh.
In theory, Stewart was in the driver's seat to log a top-three finish, for his four-tire strategy was better than Bowyer's no-tire strategy and the two-tire calls of those ahead of him. But since restarts had hampered Stewart all day long, the race's final restart was no different. The Old Spice/Office Depot driver struggled to get going and dropped to ninth in just one lap. He had to use the remaining laps to simply get back what he lost. Stewart was successful in that endeavor, crossing the stripe in seventh when the checkered flag waved.
Stewart's SHR teammate, Ryan Newman, finished 18th in his No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet.
Johnson ended up winning the Shelby American. The four-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion scored his 49th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his fourth at Las Vegas. Harvick finished 1.874 seconds behind Johnson, while Gordon, Martin and Kenseth rounded out the top-five. Joey Logano, Stewart, Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 29 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 400-mile race.
With round 3 of 36 complete, Stewart is 11th in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He gained six positions and now has 386 points, 120 markers back of series leader Harvick. Newman rose four spots to 32nd in the standings. He has 225 points and is 281 points behind Harvick.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the March 7 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.