Potential Top-10 Ruined After Two Separate Accidents Conspire for 39th-Place Finish
Date: March 15, 2015
Event: CampingWorld.com 500k (Round 4 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 17th/39th (Accident, completed 282 of 312 laps)
Point Standing: 36th (32 points, 150 out of first)
Winner: Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Chevrolet)
Tony Stewart’s subpar start to the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season continued Sunday in the CampingWorld.com 500k at Phoenix International Raceway.
After driving his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS into the top-10 from his 17th-place starting spot, two separate accidents conspired to leave Stewart 39th when the checkered flag dropped.
It all came undone on lap 237 when Stewart was in 13th place after a round of pit stops jumbled the running order. Making his way back toward the top-10, Stewart was racing Justin Allgaier in turns three and four when the two made contact.
Stewart’s Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 machine spun around and impacted the SAFER Barrier along the outside retaining wall in turn four. The right-rear corner of the car hit first, which snapped the front end around, sending the right-front corner hard against the wall.
The damage was significant, and despite yeoman work by crew chief Chad Johnston and the team to make repairs during a handful of pit stops that were intended to keep Stewart on the lead lap, it was all for naught. The handling of the Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy was drastically off, but Stewart was intent on bringing the car home to the finish and salvaging as many points as possible.
Unable to maintain the pace of the leaders, Stewart eventually went five laps down. Wrestling the car with all his might, physics finally trumped Stewart’s resolve. Coming off turn four of the 1-mile oval with only 23 laps remaining, the Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy shot up the track and scraped along the frontstretch wall, finally coming to rest a few yards short of the start/finish line.
The car was too damaged to continue and it had to be towed to the garage. Stewart’s new ride was an ambulance for his mandatory checkup in the infield care center. He was promptly evaluated and released, left to ponder what might’ve been.
At the polar opposite end of the racing spectrum was his teammate, Kevin Harvick.
Harvick, the reigning Sprint Cup champion and driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), continued his championship performance. After winning last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Harvick won again at Phoenix.
Harvick started from the pole and led four times for a race-high 224 laps to bring his laps-led total at Phoenix to a series-best 1,202. It was Harvick’s 30th career Sprint Cup victory, his second this season and his series-leading seventh Sprint Cup win at Phoenix. Harvick has won five of the last six Sprint Cup races at Phoenix, including the last four. It was his fourth Sprint Cup victory in the last six races dating back to last November’s race at Phoenix. And it was his seventh straight finish of second or better, a streak that began at Texas Motor Speedway in November. The last time a driver scored seven consecutive top-two finishes was NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty in 1975.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished fifth in the CampingWorld.com 500k. It was his sixth top-five in 25 career Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix and his first top-five of 2015.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 26th.
Jamie McMurray finished 1.153 seconds behind Harvick in the runner-up spot, while Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Busch rounded out the top-five. Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 53 laps, with two drivers failing to finish the 312-lap race.
With round four of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR in the championship point standings. He is first with 182 points, 22 ahead of second-place Logano. Patrick is 23rd with 86 points, 96 out of first. Busch is 33rd with 39 points, 143 out of first. Stewart is 36th with 32 points, 150 out of first.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 22 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its prerace show at 3 p.m.