Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Driver Labors to 33rd-Place Finish

Date:  March 8, 2015

Event:  Kobalt 400 (Round 3 of 36)

Series:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Location:  Las Vegas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)

Start/Finish:  12th/33rd (Running, completed 262 of 267 laps)

Point Standing:  34th with 27 points, 107 out of first

Winner:  Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Chevrolet)

Like many who come to Las Vegas, Tony Stewart arrived optimistic. Count Stewart among the many who leave Las Vegas disappointed.

In his 17th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Stewart struggled with an ill-handling racecar in the Kobalt 400. When the checkered flag dropped, Stewart was 33rd. Adding insult to injury was a NASCAR pit road penalty that went against Stewart and the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops team during a caution period on lap 84.

NASCAR dinged the No. 14 team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) for an uncontrolled tire, which sent Stewart to the back of the field for the lap-87 restart. Problem was, the tire was under the control of the front tire carrier until the No. 38 car of David Gilliland knocked the tire out of his hand. In the eyes of NASCAR, the reason wasn’t important, only the result. 

The silver lining to the pit stop was the massive wedge adjustment made to the right-rear and left-rear corner of the Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet finally helped the car’s handling. 

“Don’t know what you did there,” said Stewart after a handful of green flag laps, “but it feels like we have four tires of a totally different compound. Much better.”

Unfortunately, it was a case of too little, too late. Stewart was already two laps down, a deficit that could not be overcome.

At the polar opposite end of the racing spectrum was Stewart’s SHR teammate Kevin Harvick. 

Harvick, the reigning Sprint Cup champion and driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, continued his championship performance. After finishing second in the two Sprint Cup races leading into Las Vegas, Harvick won at the 1.5-mile oval to earn his 29th career Sprint Cup victory, his first at Las Vegas and his third in the last six races dating back to Texas Motor Speedway in November. Harvick led five times for a race-high 142 laps en route to his sixth straight finish of second or better.

Regan Smith, interim driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 16th. And Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 27th. 

Martin Truex Jr. finished 1.64 seconds behind Harvick in the runner-up spot, while Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five. AJ Allmendinger, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were six caution periods for 28 laps, with only one driver failing to finish the 267-lap race. 

With round three of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR in the championship point standings. He is first with 134 points, nine ahead of second-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. Patrick is 20th  with 68 points, 66 out of first. Stewart is 34th with 27 points, 107 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 500k on Sunday, March 15 at Phoenix International Raceway. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its prerace show at 3 p.m.