Mobil 1 Driver Overcomes Vibration to Lead 12 Laps in Go Bowling 400

Date:  May 7, 2016

Event:  Go Bowling 400 (Round 11 of 36)

Series:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Location:  Kansas Speedway in Kansas City (1.5-mile oval)

Start/Finish:  16th/12th (Running, completed 267 of 267 laps)

Point Standing:  37th (87 points, 59 out of the top-30)

Winner:  Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Tony Stewart earned a solid 12th-place finish in the Go Bowling 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, overcoming a nagging vibration emanating from within his No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS to lead 12 laps.

Stewart began the 267-lap race around the 1.5-mile oval from 16th in the 40-car field. He fell to 20th by lap 75 with a tight handling condition, but thanks to the work of crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, the car improved enough for Stewart to climb to 14th by the race’s halfway mark.

However, with 150 laps in the books, Stewart began to feel a vibration in the car. A green-flag pit stop on lap 157 for four new tires and fuel did nothing to alleviate the vibration. When the caution flag waved on lap 169, it allowed the crew to inspect the Mobil 1 Chevy and attempt a diagnosis.

After bolting another set of fresh Goodyears onto the car, the crew jacked up the left side and made a thorough inspection of the undercarriage. Nothing appeared to be out of sort, so the jack dropped and Stewart headed back onto the track.

As soon as the green flag fell for the lap-174 restart, the vibration returned. Stewart managed the situation as best he could, running among the top-20. With 75 laps remaining, green-flag pit stops began to cycle through. Since Stewart pitted later than all the leaders, he could run about 20 laps longer before he needed to pit.

Bugarewicz made the call to keep Stewart out, gaining positions on the racetrack and hoping that a caution flag would allow them to pit and hold on to those gains.

As the pit stops cycled through, Stewart methodically moved up the leaderboard. He took the lead on lap 219 and held it for the next 12 circuits before Kyle Busch re-took the lead.

Stewart finally had to pit, and did so on lap 234. Of course, the caution flag then waved on lap 235. The timing was bad, but not terrible. While Stewart lost the spots he gained on the racetrack, he maintained his lead-lap status by earning the Lucky Dog, as he was the first car one lap down when the caution came out. This enabled Stewart to get his lap back and start 19th when the race went green on lap 240.

Through a combination of tenacious driving and a little luck, Stewart made the race’s final laps work to his advantage.

A multicar accident on lap 241 took out a handful of drivers running ahead of Stewart. When the race restarted with 19 laps remaining, Stewart was 15th. With fresher tires than those ahead of him, Stewart was able to make up more ground, advancing three spots before the checkered flag.

The 12th-place finish brought Stewart up to 37th in the championship standings, 59 points out of the top-30. In order to be eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Stewart must be among the top-30 in points. Stewart missed the first eight races of the season with a back injury sustained in late January. If Stewart wins a race and is in the top-30 in points, he will make the 16-driver Chase.

Looking to further cement his standing in the Chase was Stewart’s teammate, Kevin Harvick. The driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is already in the Chase by way of his March victory at Phoenix International Raceway. Harvick, however, wanted another win and nearly got it at Kansas. He finished second to Kyle Busch in the Go Bowling 400, earning his third runner-up result of the season, along with his fifth top-five and ninth top-10 in the 11 races contested in 2016.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished right behind Harvick in third. It was Kurt Busch’s third top-five and 10th top-10 this season. 

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for SHR, led two laps before finishing 20th.

Kyle Busch’s win in the Go Bowling 400 was his 19th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Kansas. Finishing fourth behind Harvick and Kurt Busch was Matt Kenseth, while Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-five. Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, AJ Allmendinger, Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski comprised the remainder of the top-10.

With round 11 of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR in the championship standings with 390 points, four ahead of second-place Kyle Busch. Kurt Busch is fifth with 350 points, 40 points out of first. Patrick is 25th with 188 points, 202 out of first. Stewart is 37th with 87 points, 59 behind 30th-place Regan Smith.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the AAA 400 Drive for Autism on Sunday, May 15 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX Sports 1.