Late-Race Engine Woes Hamper Stewart at 'Dega; Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Drops From Eighth to 23rd in Last Three Laps Tony Stewart was headed toward another top-10 finish in Sunday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega ...
Late-Race Engine Woes Hamper Stewart at 'Dega; Old Spice/Office Depot Driver Drops From Eighth to 23rd in Last Three Laps
Tony Stewart was headed toward another top-10 finish in Sunday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway until a late-race engine problem dropped him from eighth to 23rd in the final rundown.
The driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) bided his time and stayed out of trouble for much of the 188-lap race. It wasn't until lap 136 that Stewart cracked the top-10, and as the draft ebbed and flowed, Stewart rose to as high as second and fell to as low as 20th.
But when the final caution flag waved on lap 180 for a multi-car accident off turn two, Stewart was in eighth-place. The optimism of what could be in the final three-lap sprint to the finish was soon dashed when Stewart radioed to crew chief Darian Grubb that his engine had lost a cylinder.
With a V-8 that was firing on only seven cylinders, Stewart was in no position to maintain race pace, never mind vie for the lead. He smartly pulled to the inside on the race's final restart and let those who could run at full song by on the outside. Once the lead pack passed Stewart by, he hung tough, coaxing his Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet across the finish line in 23rd, the last car on the lead lap.
Stewart's tough outing was offset by the finish of his SHR teammate Ryan Newman. He led twice for 10 laps and finished third in a spectacular finish that saw Carl Edwards' Ford spin in front of Newman's Chevy, where it flipped over Newman's hood and windshield before slamming the catch-fencing that separates the frontstretch from the grandstands.
Newman skidded across the finish line to maintain third, while Edwards' car laid in a crumpled mess a few yards short of the stripe. Miraculously, neither driver was hurt. Both were able to climb out of their smoking wrecks and walk unassisted to the respective ambulances that took them to the infield care center for precautionary evaluations, where they were treated and released.
Edwards finished 24th.
"A bittersweet day," said Stewart, who won last October's Sprint Cup race at Talladega. "We were looking at a good finish and Ryan had one, but he earned it the hard way. I'm glad he and Carl are alright."
Despite the outcome, Stewart continues to lead the SHR driver lineup in the championship point race by maintaining his fourth-place standing after round nine of 36. Newman gained four spots to climb to 13th in the standings. Stewart is 67 markers arrears new series leader Kurt Busch, while Newman is 266 points out of first and just 30 points away from 12th -- the final cutoff position for the Chase for the Championship.
Rookie driver Brad Keselowski won the Aaron's 499 to score his first career Sprint Cup victory. In just his fifth Sprint Cup start, Keselowski became the 10th driver to his notch his first Sprint Cup win at Talladega, joining Richard Brickhouse, Dick Brooks, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard, Bobby Hillin Jr., Davey Allison, Phil Parsons, Ken Schrader and Brian Vickers. Keselowski's win was also the first victory for Phoenix Racing, owned by James Finch.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished .175 of a second behind Keselowski, while Newman, Australian-born Marcos Ambrose and former Formula One driver Scott Speed rounded out the top-five. Busch, Greg Biffle, Vickers, rookie Joey Logano and Jeff Burton comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 33 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish the 500-mile race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the May 2 Crown Royal 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway The race begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT