Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Drivers Earns Best Finish This Season
Date: April 19, 2015
Event: Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer (Round 8 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (.533-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 21st/6th (Running, completed 511 of 511 laps)
Point Standing: 28th (145 points, 169 out of first)
Winner: Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing in a green-white-checkered finish (Toyota)
The tenaciousness that earned Tony Stewart three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships and 48 career victories was on display Sunday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished a strong sixth in the rain-delayed Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer. It was Stewart’s best finish this season and his 10th top-10 in 31 career Sprint Cup starts at Bristol.
“It was a decent run for us,” Stewart said. “I’m proud of Chad (Johnston, crew chief) and all these guys. We have just been battling and battling. Really proud of them.”
The race was delayed four times for rain, totaling an agonizing five hours and 18 minutes. Originally scheduled to begin at 1p.m. EDT, it ended at approximately 10:30 p.m. after one final delay for rain before a green-white-checkered finish determined the outcome.
“Hey, we made it this far. Why not stick it out another 10 minutes?” Stewart said. “Definitely think NASCAR did the right thing for the fans.”
Just as the fans were committed to seeing the race through, Stewart was committed to getting the best result possible from his Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet.
Stewart started 21st and despite having a loose racecar, hung onto the lead lap even with the blistering pace being set by his SHR teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. By lap 125 of what would become a 511-lap race, there were only 25 cars on the lead lap. Stewart was 20th on lap 130 but climbed to 17th by lap 150 to stay ahead of the leaders.
When the caution flag waved on lap 169 while Stewart was in 15th, it allowed the veteran driver and his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 team a reprieve. They remained on the lead lap and hit pit road, whereupon Johnston ordered a simple, four-tire stop that put Stewart back on the track in 14th.
Stewart hovered between 12th and 15th for much of the race. But thanks to a scheduled, four-tire pit stop on lap 321, Stewart was able to stay out when the caution flag waved again on lap 345. The strategy leapfrogged Stewart to fifth.
Stewart hung tough among the top-10, dropping only to eighth despite the rooting and gouging that is commonplace at Bristol. Differing pit strategies put Stewart 13th after a four-tire pit stop on lap 375 and with 50 laps to go, he had fallen to 15th.
Stewart made his final pit stop on lap 477, and with fresh Goodyear tires and a full tank of fuel, he was good to go the distance even in the event of multiple attempts at a green-white-checkered.
Three separate multicar accidents in the race’s final 30 laps allowed Stewart to pick up positions by attrition and by pit strategy. As those around him faltered, Stewart took their spots. And when others were forced to pit, Stewart stayed out. Those variables, combined with Stewart’s heady drive, netted the sixth-place finish.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, joined Stewart among the top-10. Patrick finished ninth to earn her first top-10 in six career Sprint Cup starts at Bristol and her second top-10 of 2015. She has now surpassed Janet Guthrie for the most top-10s by a female driver with six top-10s in 90 Sprint Cup starts.
Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 15th. Busch started seventh and led six times for 98 laps to bring his laps-led total at Bristol to 1,021. Busch was running in the top-10 in the closing laps of the race when he was involved in a multicar accident on the backstretch on lap 495 that caused significant damage to his racecar. Despite the damage, Busch finished the race, earning his 19th top-15 in 29 career Sprint Cup starts at Bristol and his fifth top-15 of 2015.
Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 38th after being involved in a multicar accident on lap 311. Harvick started fourth and led six times for a race-high 184 laps prior to the accident to bring his laps-led total at Bristol to 721.
Matt Kenseth won the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer to score his 32nd career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his fourth at Bristol.
Jimmie Johnson finished .287 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Jeff Gordon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five. Stewart, Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier, Patrick and Austin Dillon comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 11 caution periods for 117 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 511-lap race, which was extended 11 laps from its scheduled 500-lap distance by a green-white-checkered finish.
With round eight of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR in the championship point standings. He is first with 314 points, 30 ahead of second-place Joey Logano. Patrick is 13th with 211 points, 103 out of first. Busch is 22nd with 174 points, 140 out of first. Stewart is 28th with 145 points, 169 out of first.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Richmond 400 on Saturday, April 25 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The race starts at 7 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.