Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Driver Makes Gains for Future in Coca-Cola 600


Date:  May 25, 2014

Event:  Coca-Cola 600 (Round 12 of 36)

Series:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Location:  Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)

Start/Finish:  18th/13th (Running, completed 400 of 400 laps)

Point Standing: 22nd (299 points, 133 out of first)

Winner:  Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is rarely satisfied with a finish that doesn’t end up in victory lane. But the 16-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran is also savvy enough to know when true progress is being made, and Stewart saw that in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

Despite a 13th-place finish in the series’ longest race, Stewart saw the bigger picture, declaring with 20 laps still remaining in the 400-lap marathon around the 1.5-mile oval, “I don’t care how this ends up. We are 1,000 percent better than we were a week ago.”

A week ago, Stewart struggled with an ill-handling racecar in the non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, also held at Charlotte. But the gains Stewart and crew chief Chad Johnston made throughout the Coca-Cola 600 proved the hard work back at the team’s headquarters in Kannapolis, North Carolina, had been beneficial.

“We’re making steady progress,” Stewart said.

“Baby steps,” added Johnston.

Stewart started 18th and dealt with a tight-handling racecar throughout much of the Coca-Cola 600. But over the course of 11 pit stops, Johnston continuously tweaked on the car’s handling. Only a vibration stemming from the last set of tires placed on the Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet during a pit stop on lap 381 thwarted a top-10 finish.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet SS for SHR, started 11th and led five times for 100 laps en route to his fourth top-five in 27 career Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte. It was his fourth top-five this season and his 104th top-five in 478 career Sprint Cup starts. 

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, started fourth and finished 39th after engine problems forced her from the race after 281 laps.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation “America’s Machine Tool” Chevrolet SS for SHR, started 28th and finished 40th. He also experienced engine issues and completed only 271 laps.

Busch came to Charlotte by way of Indianapolis, where he became just the fourth driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, joining Stewart, John Andretti and Robby Gordon. Busch finished sixth in the Indianapolis 500 and completed a total of 906.5 miles between the two races.

Jimmie Johnson won the Coca-Cola 600 to score his 67th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his series-leading seventh at Charlotte.

Harvick finished 1.272 seconds behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-five. Brian Vickers, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were eight caution periods for 44 laps, with six drivers failing to finish.

With round 12 of 36 complete, Harvick leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is 12th with 345 points, 87 behind series leader Gordon. Stewart is 22nd with 299 points, 133 out of first. Patrick is 27th with 218 points, 214 out of first. Busch is 28th with 215 points, 217 out of first.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks on Sunday, June 1 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its prerace show at 12:30 p.m.