Tony Stewart finishes fourth for third consecutive top-10 finish
Tony Stewart may get down, but he should never be counted out. Stewart, the driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), delivered that message last week with a victory at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and then backed it up Sunday with an impressive fourth-place effort in the Party in the Poconos 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
Stewart started 19th in the 43-car field Sunday and made an impressive save after a late-race run-in with Brad Keselowski to bounce back for his third top-10 in as many races.
“Really happy with it,” said Stewart after his 12th top-five in 29 career Spring Cup starts at Pocono. “We got kind of pinched down there in the tunnel turn, or not pinched – we were the one doing the pinching – and got hit in the left rear there and moved up the track. We fell back to 12th and fought back to fourth there with all of those restarts. So, we are definitely pretty happy with that.”
Three-time Sprint Cup champion Stewart lost his footing in the top-10 during a caution on lap 65 for debris. Because green-flag stops had just been completed about six laps before, several teams elected to pit for fuel only while the No. 14 team changed right-side tires and added fuel. The stop took more time than usual because Stewart had to drive around Keselowski’s car to get to his pit stall. Stewart restarted 13th and spent the next few runs trying to battle his way back into the top-10.
As has become customary this season, the rate of cautions picked up as the race wound down. Stewart used the situation to his advantage.
The final 30 laps around the track featured four restarts. Stewart picked up a couple of positions each time. He was in sixth place on the final restart on lap 156 and pounced on teammate Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch to pick up fourth place. He maintained the spot during the final four trips around the “Tricky Triangle” to the checkered flag, with teammate Newman following close behind – giving SHR a pair of top-five finishes.
“It’s one thing when one car runs good, but to have two or all three of us running good shows that we are gaining momentum,” Stewart said. “It’s not just one team; the whole organization is gaining momentum. I’m really proud of our group at SHR. The Hendrick engines today were awesome. There’s no doubt of having four of the top-five cars with Hendrick horsepower shows the strength there. I’m not a dad, but I feel very much like a proud dad today.”
Newman, driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet for SHR, finished fifth after leading three times for 19 laps. It was his eighth top-five in 23 career Sprint Cup starts at Pocono and his second top-five this season.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 29th. It was Patrick’s 24th career Sprint Cup start but her first at Pocono.
Jimmie Johnson won the Party in the Poconos 400 to score his 63rd career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his third at Pocono.
Greg Biffle finished 1.208 seconds behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., Stewart and Newman rounded out the top-five. Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 19 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 160-lap race.
With round 14 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He moved up three spots to 13th and has 378 points, 143 back of series leader Johnson and 17 points behind 10th-place Biffle. Newman gained two spots to 18th and has 363 points, 158 out of first and 32 behind Biffle. Patrick picked up one spot and is 28th with 246 points, 275 behind Johnson and 149 away from Biffle.
Twelve races remain before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. If multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker. With his victory June 2 at Dover, Stewart holds the first wild-card spot, as he is the only driver between 11th and 20th in points with a victory.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished three spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 26th.