Early Crash Dashes Stewart’s Daytona 500 Hopes


Date:  Feb. 22, 2015

Event:  57th Daytona 500 (Round 1 of 36)

Series:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Location:  Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (2.5-mile oval)

Start/Finish:  7th/42nd (Accident, completed 72 of 203 laps)

Point Standing:  36th with 2 points

Winner:  Joey Logano of Team Penske in a green-white-checkered finish (Ford) 

Tony Stewart felt confident heading into the 57th Daytona 500 Sunday at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. It was his 17th career start in the Great American Race, and his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS was fast throughout Budweiser Speedweeks.

But just 42 laps into the season-opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, Stewart lost control off turn four. In the short chute entering the frontstretch of the 2.5-mile oval, the right-front corner of Stewart’s Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy smacked the outside retaining wall. The damage forced Stewart to the garage area for repairs. 

“Sorry guys,” said Stewart on the radio immediately afterward. “I let the front end get away from me.”

Stewart had complained of a tight-handling condition off turn four, despite being able to roll through turns one and two with no problem.

“As long as we were two-wide, I was ok,” Stewart said, “but then when it got three-wide, on that particular lap it got away from me. I got out of the gas and couldn’t even get the front end caught up.” 

His Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) crew members worked fast, removing the entire nose assembly and replacing it with a new one. Crew chief Chad Johnston was hands-on in the effort, welding the new nose back onto the car. By lap 109, Stewart was back in the Daytona 500, albeit 67 laps down in 42nd position. 

When there were only 65 laps remaining, Johnston called Stewart to the garage for good. No positions could be gained, and instead of having an incident that could potentially impact the race, Johnston and Stewart agreed their damaged racecar belonged in the garage instead of on the track. The team finished 42nd.

“Our Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy was fast enough to stay with the pack and we ran as many laps as we could, but we got to a point where we couldn’t gain anything,” Stewart said. “It’s the biggest race of the year and the last thing you want to do is stay out there and have something else happen to get in the middle of something.”

Having a much better day than Stewart was his SHR teammate Kevin Harvick. 

Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished second to score his seventh top-five in 28 career, point-paying Sprint Cup starts at Daytona. 

Fellow SHR teammate Regan Smith, interim driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished 16th, and Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet for SHR, finished 21st.  

Joey Logano won the Daytona 500 to score his ninth career Sprint Cup victory and his first at Daytona. 

Finishing third behind Logano and Harvick was Dale Earnhardt Jr., while Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five. Casey Mears, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were seven caution periods for 26 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 203-lap race, which was extended three laps from its scheduled 200-lap distance by a green-white-checkered finish.

With round one of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR in the championship point standings. He is second with 42 points, five points behind first-place Logano. Patrick is 18th with 23 points, 24 points out of first. Stewart is 36th with two points, 45 points out of first. Smith didn’t accumulate any points because he is a fulltime driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Folds of Honor 500 on Sunday, March 1 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race starts at 1 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at noon.