Rush Truck Centers Driver Scores Best Kentucky Finish in Four Sprint Cup Starts

Date:  June 28, 2014

Event:  Kentucky 400 (Round 17 of 36)

Series:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Location:  Kentucky Speedway in Sparta (1.5-mile oval)

Start/Finish:  13th/11th (Running, completed 267 of 267 laps)

Point Standing: 16th (460 points, 158 out of first)

Winner:  Brad Keselowski of Team Penske (Ford)

Tony Stewart used all 267 laps in Saturday night’s Kentucky 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta to rally his way to a solid 11th-place finish.

Despite qualifying 13th, Stewart had to relinquish that spot when his team was forced to change the transmission of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers Chevrolet SS prior to the race. NASCAR rules dictate that if such a change is made, the driver must start the race at the rear of the field. While Stewart was credited with a 13th-place starting spot, his real-world starting spot was 42nd.

When the green flag waved, Stewart began making immediate progress. After just 10 laps around the bumpy, 1.5-mile oval, he was 27th. 

There were six caution periods for 34 laps, and each time the yellow flag waved, Stewart brought the Rush Truck Centers Chevy to the attention of his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) crew chief Chad Johnston. Each time, Johnston improved the car’s handling.

“I would’ve liked to have been a little better than what we were there at the end, but I think we definitely had to fight our way up there through the day,” Stewart said. “We never did anything trick to get track position. We pitted every time the pits were open. We didn’t do any less than anybody else did on any stop. All in all, I thought we had a pretty honest day there. Can’t complain about that.”

Initially, Stewart’s Rush Truck Centers Chevrolet handled the track’s 14-degree banked corners well, with the lone exception being turn three.

Said Stewart on lap 110 while in 21st position: “I can’t get into (turn) three as deep as these guys, but (turns) one and two are ok.”

Four more pit stops were made, each of which afforded Johnston an opportunity to tweak the chassis setup to the track conditions.

Stewart cracked the top-10 on lap 193 and on lap 199 keyed his radio to say “This is the best my entry into (turn) three has been all night.” Two laps later, Stewart passed A.J. Allmendinger for ninth.

A final pit stop on lap 216 set Stewart up in ninth for the race’s final restart, but a lack of grip when the green flag waved sent Stewart back to 13th. Again Stewart rallied, climbing to 11th in the final 40 laps. It was his best finish in four career Sprint Cup starts at Kentucky, topping the 12th-place finish Stewart earned in the track’s inaugural Sprint Cup race in 2011. 

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS for SHR, started fifth and finished seventh to score his eighth top-10 this season and his second top-10 in four career Sprint Cup starts at Kentucky.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, started ninth and finished 12thfor his sixth top-15 this season.

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, started 10th and finished 21st. 

Brad Keselowski won the Kentucky 400 to score his 12th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Kentucky. 

Kyle Busch finished 1.014 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot, while Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson comprised the remainder of the top-10. 

With round 17 of 36 complete, Harvick leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is ninth with 509 points, 109 behind series leader Gordon. Stewart is 16th with 460 points, 158 out of first. Busch is 26th with 379 points, 239 out of first. Patrick is 28th with 322 points, 296 out of first. 

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Coke Zero 400 on Saturday, July 5 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its prerace show at 6:30 p.m.