ATYPICAL OUTING FOR STEWART AT RICHMOND Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Finishes Uncharacteristic 23rd at Favorite Track Tony Stewart has enjoyed far more good days than bad at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, as his five wins -- three in...
ATYPICAL OUTING FOR STEWART AT RICHMOND
Office Depot/Old Spice Driver Finishes Uncharacteristic 23rd at Favorite Track
Tony Stewart has enjoyed far more good days than bad at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, as his five wins -- three in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and two in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series -- attest. The bad days are atypical, for in addition to the three Sprint Cup wins, Stewart has four second-place finishes, seven top-threes, nine top-fives and 15 top-10s. There's little wonder why he considers Richmond his favorite racetrack.
Nonetheless, bad days happen, and one of them came in Saturday night's Crown Royal Heath Calhoun 400 when he finished an uncharacteristic 23rd.
Stewart's No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala was a handful throughout the 400-lap race around the .75-mile oval. After starting 18th in the 43-car field, Stewart slowly drifted backward, and with a ferocious pace being set by the leaders, he quickly found himself a lap down on lap 86.
A timely caution flag on lap 155 allowed Stewart to get his lap back, but the constant problem of his car being tight into the corners and loose off eventually put him back down a lap on the 256th circuit.
With 300 laps remaining, Stewart was 28th, sandwiched between Casey Mears and David Gilliland. It was unfamiliar territory for the two-time Sprint Cup champion -- especially at Richmond, where he's led a total of 815 laps in 22 previous starts.
With the race staying green, crew chief Darian Grubb made a strategy call to bring Stewart to pit road early. A four-tire stop with a right-rear wedge adjustment on lap 350 put Stewart on the front end of the pit cycle, and if the race stayed green for the final 50 laps, he would gain considerable ground on those who had been running ahead of him.
The strategy worked, at least a little. Stewart gained one of his laps back to be only one lap down to the leaders when the caution flag waved on lap 368. When the race restarted on lap 378, only 16 cars were on the lead lap, and Stewart was 25th.
Stewart picked up two more spots to climb to 23rd, and held onto those spots when the race's final restart came with five laps to go after a caution period for Sam Hornish's crash on the backstretch.
"We're just not where we need to be right now," said Stewart, who now finds himself 15th in the championship standings with 1,160 points, a loss of one position that puts him 307 markers behind new series leader Kevin Harvick.
Teammate Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Army Medicine Chevrolet, carried the flag for Stewart-Haas Racing by finishing eighth. It was his third top-10 of the 2010 season and it allowed Newman to gain two positions in the point standings. He's now 16th and has 1,142 points, 325 points back of Harvick.
Kyle Busch won the Crown Royal Heath Calhoun 400 to score his 17th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his second at Richmond. It was also the first Sprint Cup win for Busch's crew chief, Dave Rogers. From 1999 to 2004, Rogers was Stewart's engineer on the No. 20 Sprint Cup team of Joe Gibbs Racing.
Jeff Gordon finished .755 of a second behind Busch, while Harvick, Jeff Burton and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr., Newman, Marcos Ambrose and Jimmie Johnson comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 37 laps, with six drivers failing to finish.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the May 8 Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.