Mobil 1 Chevrolet Team Couldn’t Find Handle at Charlotte

Date: May 29, 2016

Event: Coca-Cola 600 (Round 13 of 36)

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Location: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)

Start/Finish: 21st/24th (Running, completed 396 of 400 laps)

Winner: Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing (Toyota)  

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished 24th in his 18th and final Coca-Cola 600 Sunday at Charlotte (N.C) Motor Speedway.

Stewart qualified 21st but started 39th in the 40-car field after NASCAR cited the team for an unapproved body modification during prerace.

When the green flag flew in the late afternoon sun, Stewart rushed toward the front, climbing to 25th by the lap-25 competition caution. Unfortunately, that was the only caution in the first 115 laps. The leaders’ fast pace put Stewart a lap down at lap 87 as he raced in 24th.

“The car feels like it is up out of the track,” Stewart reported while manhandling his machine as it struggled in the center of the track’s 24-degree banked corners.

The No. 14 crew made numerous changes in the opening pit stops of the 400-lap race. By halfway, Stewart raced two laps behind the leaders in 22nd place. A speeding penalty on pit road at lap 206 dropped the No. 14 to 29th.  Nonetheless, Stewart remained focused on getting the best finish possible.

As night fell, Stewart battled to regain the lost laps but couldn’t find the key to unlocking the No. 14’s handling challenges. By the end of the longest NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season, Stewart was 24th – four laps behind the leader.

Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday night by finishing second in the race.

Harvick’s runner-up effort was his third of the season, and it came after starting eighth. The result was also Harvick’s sixth top-five and 10th top-10 in the 13 races contested this season, and his seventh top-five and 14th top-10 in 31 career Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished sixth. It was his series-leading 11th top-10 this season and his 10th top-10 in 32 career Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte.

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 21st.

Martin Truex Jr. won the Coca-Cola 600 in dominating fashion. He started from the pole and led five times for a race-high 392 laps, setting a new record for the most laps led, breaking a 49-year mark set by Jim Paschal in the 1967 World 600 at Charlotte. Truex also set a new NASCAR record by leading 588 miles.

Harvick finished 2.572 seconds behind Truex, with Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top-five. Busch, Matt Kenseth, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were four caution periods for 19 laps, with only two drivers failing to finish.

With round 13 of 36 complete, Harvick leads SHR in the championship standings with 457 points, 36 ahead of second-place Busch. This marks the first time in SHR history where it has two drivers 1-2 in points.

Patrick is 24th in the standings with 236 points, 75 ahead of 31st-place Regan Smith. Stewart is 35th with 111 points, 60 out of the top-30. If Patrick or Stewart win a race and finish among the top-30 in points following the 26th race of the season Sept. 10 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, each will earn a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Harvick has already earned a Chase spot via his win March 13 at Phoenix International Raceway. While winless, Busch is solidly among the top-16 and on track to earn a spot in the 16-driver, 10-race Chase.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 on Sunday, June 5 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Coverage by FOX Sports 1 begins with NASCAR RaceDay at 11:30 a.m. EDT and the race broadcast begins at 1 p.m.