Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Driver Fights Ill-Handling Racecar
Date: Nov. 9, 2014
Event: Phoenix 500k (Round 35 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 29th/20th (Running, completed 312 of 312 laps)
Point Standing: 25th with 798 points
Winner: Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Chevrolet)
The Phoenix 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway was 312 laps, and from the beginning of the three-hour event on the 1-mile oval, Tony Stewart fought an ill-handling racecar.
After just 10 laps, Stewart radioed to crew chief Chad Johnston that his car was loose off turn four. Fifteen laps later, it was still loose off the corner but also tight in the center of turns three and four. When the caution flag waved for the first of 12 times on lap 32, Stewart explained that he needed more overall grip.
Despite numerous changes to Stewart’s No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS, there was a common refrain from Stewart: “It feels like it’s falling into the right-rear,” meaning too much of the car’s balance was shifting to the right-rear tire each time Stewart drove through the corners.
Johnston attempted numerous mechanical fixes and when those didn’t work, he opted for pit strategy. Getting Stewart higher up in the running order by taking two tires when others took four would put the Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops machine in cleaner air. But the car’s mechanical imbalance was too much to overcome, and Stewart constantly had to fight to maintain his position.
Stewart even went a lap down on lap 173, but thanks to a tenacious drive, earned the lap back following a caution on lap 238.
For the final 75 laps, Stewart bounced in and out of the top-20, finally securing 20th before the checkered flag waved.
While Stewart’s day as a driver didn’t go well, he had a fantastic outing in his role as co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS for SHR, won the Phoenix 500k. It was the 24th point-paying Sprint Cup win for SHR since its inception in 2009 and the organization’s fifth this season.
It was Harvick’s 27th career Sprint Cup win, his fourth this season and his series-leading sixth Sprint Cup win at Phoenix. He started third and led three times for a race-high 264 laps to bring his laps-led total at Phoenix to a series-best 978.
Most importantly, the victory punched Harvick’s ticket to the Championship Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Harvick is one of only four drivers from the original field of 16 Chase drivers who made it through three elimination rounds to contend for the title in the series finale Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Harvick will battle Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman, with the highest finishing driver in the 400-mile race at Homestead being crowned 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished seventh in the Phoenix 500k to record his 11th top-10 of 2014 and his 13th top-10 in 24 career Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 22nd.
Jeff Gordon finished 1.636 seconds behind Harvick in the runner-up spot, while Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Hamlin rounded out the top-five. Logano, Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Marcos Ambrose comprised the remainder of the top-10.
The Sprint Cup season finale Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway begins at 3 p.m. EST, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with a prerace show at 2 p.m.