Late-Race Accident Leaves Stewart 41st, Thwarting Second Straight Top-10 Finish

Date:  April 26, 2015

Event:  Richmond 400 (Round 9 of 36)

Series:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Location:  Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (.75-mile oval)

Start/Finish:  13th/41st (Accident, completed 359 of 400 laps)

Point Standing:  30th (148 points, 209 out of first)

Winner:  Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing (Chevrolet) 

Coming off a sixth-place finish last week at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart was poised to earn his second straight top-10 finish in the rain-postponed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

Instead, after positioning his No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS in and around the top-10 for all but the last 40 laps of the 400-lap contest around the .75-mile oval, Stewart was left with a disappointing 41st-place finish after tangling with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on lap 360. 

The two drivers made contact coming through the frontstretch as they began to enter turn one. Stewart spun down toward the apron while Earnhardt motored on. The damage to Stewart’s Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevy was minimal, but after coming to a rest, it would not restart. After numerous attempts to re-fire the engine, Stewart dejectedly lowered his window net and climbed from the car. Per NASCAR protocol, he was transported by ambulance to the infield care center where he was promptly evaluated and released.

It was a disappointing end to what had been another solid showing for Stewart. He qualified 13th and even after dropping to 15th at the beginning of the race with a car that was loose off the corners, Stewart rallied to eighth place by lap 127. Pit stop cycles and the cycle of his race runs – Stewart’s lap times would improve the deeper into a green-flag run he went – bounced Stewart in and out of the top-10 throughout the race. Stewart was battling Earnhardt for 13th when the incident happened, jettisoning Stewart’s chances for a second straight top-10.

At the other end of the racing spectrum was his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate, Kurt Busch. Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, led the four-car SHR contingent by winning the Richmond 400. Busch led six times for a race-high 291 laps en route to his 26th career Sprint Cup victory, his first this season and his second at Richmond. 

The victory was the 28th point-paying Sprint Cup win for SHR since its inception in 2009 and the organization’s third this season. SHR driver Kevin Harvick won earlier this year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway.

Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for SHR, crossed the stripe .754 of a second behind Busch in the runner-up spot to give SHR a 1-2 finish. It was only the second time SHR drivers have finished 1-2 in a Sprint Cup race, with the previous time coming on July 17, 2011 when Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart finished 1-2 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 25th at Richmond.

Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano rounded out the top-five behind the SHR duo of Busch and Harvick. Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were eight caution periods for 53 laps, with three drivers failing to finish. 

With round nine of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR in the championship point standings. He is first with 357 points, 33 ahead of second-place Logano. Patrick is 16th with 230 points, 127 out of first. Busch is 18th with 222 points, 135 out of first. Stewart is 30th with 148 points, 209 out of first.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Geico 500 on Sunday, May 3 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its prerace show at 12:30 p.m.