STEWART HAPPY TO SEE PHOENIX IN REARVIEW MIRROR Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Caught Up in Mid-Race Accident, Finishes 25th Tony Stewart's drive in Sunday's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International...
STEWART HAPPY TO SEE PHOENIX IN REARVIEW MIRROR
Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Caught Up in Mid-Race Accident, Finishes 25th
Tony Stewart's drive in Sunday's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway went from a possible top-10 performance to a disappointing 25th-place result when he was caught up in a multi-car accident on lap 171 of the 312-lap race.
It was triggered when Dale Earnhardt Jr., spun coming off turn four of the 1-mile oval, and Stewart's No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala SS was among a gaggle of cars that were trapped in the ensuing melee. Nine cars in all were involved, with Stewart suffering significant damage to each corner of his racecar, including a busted front splitter that took three pit stops to repair.
Despite the bleak outlook and the subsequent time spent on pit road, crew chief Darian Grubb and his team were able to work on the No. 14 machine quickly enough to keep Stewart on the lead lap.
However, eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson was setting a blistering pace, and he soon lapped Stewart, not once, but twice. The battered Old Spice/Office Depot Chevy was no match for the clean lines of Johnson's No. 48 ride, but that was the case with just about every entry in the 43-car field, as Johnson dominated the event by leading four times for a race-high 238 laps.
As Johnson sprayed champagne in victory lane and celebrated his 47th career Sprint Cup victory, his seventh of the season and his fourth at Phoenix, Stewart's crew loaded his crumpled racecar onto the team's transporter for the long haul back to Kannapolis, N.C., headquarters for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
Stewart's SHR teammate, Ryan Newman in the No. 39 U.S. Army/Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala SS, fared only a little better. He was also caught up in the lap-171 accident, but didn't suffer as much damage as Stewart. Still, it dropped him off the lead lap and delivered a 20th-place finish.
Johnson, the three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion, has all but assured himself of making NASCAR history by becoming the only driver to win four straight championships. His 108-point lead over second-place Mark Martin is nearly insurmountable, for Johnson needs only to finish 25th or better in the season finale Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Even with the frustrating outcome in the season's penultimate race, Stewart remained fifth in the standings and is now 285 points behind Johnson. Newman maintained his ninth-place standing and is 411 markers out of first.
Enjoying a much better time in the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500k was Jeff Burton, who finished 1.033 seconds behind Johnson in the runner-up spot to score his best finish of the season. Denny Hamlin finished third, while Martin and Martin Truex Jr., rounded out the top-five. Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Gordon and David Reutimann comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were four caution periods for 23 laps, with six drivers failing to finish.
The season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway starts at 3:15 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with its pre-race show at 2:30 p.m.