Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Driver Finishes 29th in Regular Season Finale

Date:  Sept. 12, 2015

Event:  Federated Auto Parts 400 (Round 26 of 36)

Series:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

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

Start/Finish:  10th/29th (Running, completed 396 of 400 laps)

Point Standing:  26th with 511 points

Winner:  Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota) 

A strong qualifying effort placed Tony Stewart 10th in the 43-car field for Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. But when the race was over and Stewart finished 29th, that strong qualifying effort seemed like a distant memory.

Just eight laps into the 400-lap race around the .75-mile oval, Stewart reported that his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS was extremely tight into the center of the corner and loose off. By lap 30, the car’s ill-handling nature was so intense that Stewart called for “wholesale changes” to the chassis, saying it “plowed” through the corners.

But whether the changes were nuanced, such as adjusting the tire pressures, or radical, such as round-after-round of wedge into the right- and left-side of the Bass Pro Shops/Mobil1 machine, the car didn’t respond.

By the end of the race Stewart was four laps down. His 29th-place finish was only his fifth outside of the top-25 in 33 career Sprint Cup starts at Richmond.

His Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammates fared slightly better. Kevin Harvick, driver of No. 4 Budweiser “Make A Plan To Make It Home”/Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS, finished 14th. Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for SHR, finished one spot behind Harvick in 15th. Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 19th.

Matt Kenseth won the Federated Auto Parts 400 to score his 35th career Sprint Cup victory, his fourth of the season and his second at Richmond.

Kyle Busch finished .951 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Joey Logano, Aric Almirola and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five. Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were six caution periods for 47 laps, with two drivers failing to finish.

Richmond marked the last race of the regular season, and the 16-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins. Representing SHR in the Chase are Harvick and Busch. 

Harvick qualified for the Chase by virtue of his two wins, at Phoenix International Raceway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Each of his regular-season victories was worth three bonus points. As such, Harvick carries six bonus points into the Chase to slot fifth among the 16 drivers. Harvick finished the regular season ranked first with 978 points, the most of any driver since the 2011 Chase. This is Harvick’s sixth-consecutive Chase appearance and his ninth overall. He finished fourth in his Chase debut in 2006, 10th in 2007, fourth in 2008, third in 2010, third in 2011, eighth in 2012, third in 2013 and won the Sprint Cup championship in 2014.

Busch qualified for the Chase via his wins at Richmond in April and Michigan International Speedway in June. He’ll start the Chase seventh with six bonus points. Busch finished the regular season ranked ninth with 781 points. This is Busch’s third-straight Chase appearance and ninth overall. He won the championship in his Chase debut in 2004, then finished 10th in 2005, seventh in 2007, fourth in 2009, 11thin 2010, 11th in 2011, 10th in 2013 and 12th in 2014.

Ranked in order of where their bonus points seeded them, the 16 drivers competing for this year’s championship are:

1.      Jimmie Johnson (2,012 points)

2.      Kyle Busch (2,012 points)

3.      Matt Kenseth (2,012 points)

4.      Joey Logano (2,009 points, -3)

5.      Kevin Harvick (2,006 points, -6)

6.      Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2,006 points, -6)

7.      Kurt Busch (2,006 points, -6)

8.      Carl Edwards (2,006 points, -6)

9.      Brad Keselowski (2,003 points, -9)

10.  Martin Truex Jr. (2,003 points, -9)

11.  Denny Hamlin (2,003 points, -9)

12.  Jamie McMurray (2,000 points, -12)

13.  Jeff Gordon (2,000 points, -12)

14.  Ryan Newman (2,000 points, -12)

15.  Paul Menard (2,000 points, -12)

16.  Clint Bowyer (2,000 points, -12)

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the first race of the Chase – is the Sept. 20 MyAFibRisk.com400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. The race starts at 3 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN.