Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Driver Runs Among Top-10 Until Sidelined by Mechanical Problem
Date: Aug. 9, 2015
Event: Cheez-It 355k at The Glen (Round 22 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International (2.45-mile, 11-turn road course)
Start/Finish: 3rd /43rd (Rear gear, completed 56 of 90 laps)
Point Standing: 26th (418 points, 144 out of 16th)
Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
After qualifying a season-best third for the Cheez-It 355k at The Glen NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Watkins Glen International, Tony Stewart was poised to earn his second top-10 finish in as many races. But on lap 57 of the 90-lap race around the 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course in upstate New York, Stewart dropped out of the top-10 and onto the apron of the track.
“We just broke,” said Stewart over the radio.
A failed seal in the rear-end assembly allowed all of the oil and grease to dump out, which caused the mechanicals to seize. A safety truck was able to push Stewart behind the wall and into his garage stall, whereupon crewmen went to work on Stewart’s signature No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS.
“When I came off of (turn) one, I could feel it like it was kind of pulling heavy,” Stewart said. “And going up through the esses, you could hear it let go right at the end.”
The entire rear-end assembly was swapped out for a new one, but with laps winding down and little to no attrition, no more positions could be gained by Stewart re-entering the race. The decision to load up the car and place it on the transporter back to the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) base in Kannapolis, North Carolina, was an easy one. The DNF (Did Not Finish) placed Stewart last in the 43-car field.
A setback like this would leave most drivers seething, but Stewart found a silver lining in his disappointing day.
“For me, it’s big picture,” said Stewart, who owns a series-best five Sprint Cup wins at Watkins Glen (2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009). “The way our season has been, we’ve picked up. Indy we picked up, Pocono we picked up and we picked up here. At the end of the day, the results won’t show it, but I think we’re starting to gain some momentum.”
Stewart qualified fourth at Indianapolis Motor Speedway two weeks ago and ran as high as second before a host of late-race restarts thwarted his pit strategy and left him with a 28th-place finish. He qualified fifth last week at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and then finished ninth. His third-place qualifying effort at The Glen was his best of the season, and it allowed Stewart to run competitively among the top-10 before mechanical woes put him out of the race.
Despite a season where Stewart is mired at 26th in the championship standings with only two top-10 finishes, the strong showings on three different types of racetracks with three different rules packages have bolstered Stewart’s notion that better days are ahead, despite how the box score reads.
“Everybody was beating me between turns 10 and 11 today,” Stewart said. “We definitely struggled there, but I think there were parts of the racetrack that we made better from Friday. I felt like we gained on it. We had a good weekend, or as good as it could be, and I’m happy about the next couple of weeks we have coming up.”
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, led the way for SHR by finishing third. He paced the field for a race-high 29 laps and was leading the last lap before running out of fuel as he came into the final corner. Still, Harvick hung on to nab his third top-five in 15 career Sprint Cup starts at Watkins Glen and his series-leading 15th top-five this season.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished fifth to earn his third top-five in 15 career Sprint Cup starts at Watkins Glen and his eighth top-five of the year.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 17th in her third career Sprint Cup start at Watkins Glen.
Joey Logano won the Cheez-It 355k at The Glen to score his 10th career Sprint Cup victory, his second this season and his first at Watkins Glen.
Kyle Busch finished 5.273 seconds behind Logano, while Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Sam Hornish Jr. and Jimmie Johnson comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 16 laps.
With round 22 of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR in the championship point standings. He is first with 823 points, 42 ahead of second-place Logano. Busch is eighth with 659 points, 164 out of first. With two wins apiece, Harvick and Busch are locked into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Patrick is 22nd with 489 points, 73 out of 16th, the cutoff position to make the 16-driver Chase field on points. Stewart is 26th with 418 points, 144 out of 16th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday, Aug. 16 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The race starts at 2:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC Sports Network.