Stewart Feels Pain at the Pump in Kansas
Driver of THE GLADES/Office Depot Chevy Finishes Eighth After Late-Race Fuel Stop
On Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Tony Stewart experienced what millions of Americans have already experienced this year – pain at the pump.
The driver of the No. 14 THE GLADES/Office Depot Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) led twice for 20 laps in the STP 400 and was in contention to win his 40th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and third at Kansas before a late-race pit stop for fuel jettisoned him to an eighth-place finish.
“We didn’t get all the fuel in it to make it to the end,” said Stewart after recording his eighth top-10 finish in 11 career Sprint Cup starts at Kansas. “We had a problem getting the fuel in and we didn’t get it full at that second to last stop, so we had to pit there with about 10 to go. “There’s nothing you can do. Our guys are doing a great job. They did a great job all day. We kind of had to roll the dice on the chassis setup. I’m really proud of our engineers and Darian (Grubb, crew chief). They did a great job of getting us there and making good educated guesses. So, we had a really good car today.”
Stewart started the 267-lap race in 13th, but quickly showed he had a car capable of winning. Proof of that came on just the 10th circuit around the 1.5-mile oval as Stewart keyed his radio and said, “Boys, we got something we can work with today.” Augmenting Stewart’s words was his sixth-place running position – a stout climb in just 10 laps.
Stewart became a top-10 mainstay, and then after a lap-73 restart, made a charge into the top-five where by lap 124 he was second.
Stewart took the lead for the first time on lap 141 with an impressive pass of Denny Hamlin. His No. 14 Chevrolet held the point for the next 13 laps before Hamlin re-took the top spot on lap 154. From there, Stewart stayed among the top-three before earning the lead again from laps 205-211. He gave up the lead when he pitted, which was the stop where not all the fuel made it into Stewart’s tank. On top of that, the left-rear wedge adjustment that was made to help Stewart navigate the track’s high-banked corners ended up working against him.
“We were really loose the majority of the day,” Stewart said. “The adjustment with about 50 or 60 (laps) to go we finally got too tight. So we needed one more shot at it to get it really good and I think we could’ve done that. We just didn’t get that opportunity.”
With 30 laps to go, Stewart was fifth. But he and the team knew that one more pit stop would be needed to make it to the end. That came on lap 256 where Stewart got right-side tires and enough fuel to make it to the finish.
Many others had to pit too, but three drivers did not – Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Hamlin. All of them made it to the end to finish 1-2-3. Stewart wound up eighth after all the green-flag pit stops cycled through.
“That’s just part of it,” said Stewart when asked how he felt about a race being decided by fuel mileage. “There’s nothing you can do about it and it’s not a problem. It’s part of racing. Crew chiefs are pretty smart and they know how to play the odds and they know what their scenario is and what their situation is and you lose a heck of a lot more of them than you win that way, but it’s nice to steal one once in a while and get it that way. That’s how we won here in 2006. You’ll take them any way you can get them.”
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished 15th after dealing with an ill-handling racecar throughout the 400-mile race. It was Newman’s fifth top-15 finish in 11 career Sprint Cup starts at Kansas and his seventh top-15 finish this season.
Keselowski’s win in the STP 400 was his second career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his first at Kansas. Earnhardt finished 2.813 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot, while Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Stewart, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 22 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish.
With round 13 of 36 complete, Stewart picked up one position to rise to eighth in the Sprint Cup championship point standings. He now has 393 points and is 92 markers behind series leader Edwards. Newman maintained his 10th-place standing and has 382 points, 103 points back of Edwards.