Restrictor-plate racing is an anomaly in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, where drivers’ destinies are not always in their control and they must rely on others to help push them to the front and keep their racecars straight.
When an accident happens, it typically consumes multiple cars, and on lap 137 of the Aaron’s 499 Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Tony Stewart was collected in a wreck not of his making.
When Brad Keselowski, despite being six laps down, was racing among the lead pack and lost control, his spinning racecar set off a chain reaction crash that collected 13 others, including Stewart and his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet SS of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
Stewart ducked low to avoid the melee that was unfolding off turn four of the 2.66-mile oval, but as cars spun off the banking and onto the apron, they impacted Stewart, sending his Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevy nose-first into the SAFER Barrier lining the inside retaining wall.
Stewart emerged from his wrecked racecar unscathed and was promptly evaluated and released from the infield care center after his mandatory ambulance ride. The hunter orange Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevy was another matter, as its front end was a crumpled mess. Crew chief Chad Johnston, who prior to Talladega had spent countless hours making the contours of the No. 14 machine slippery smooth, made the quick and easy call that their race was over.
With a dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish), Stewart was credited with a 43rd-place finish.
At the other end of the racing spectrum was Stewart’s teammate Kevin Harvick, who led the four-car SHR contingent by finishing seventh in the Aaron’s 499. Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, led three times for 15 laps, all within the last 20 laps of the 188-lap race. It was his 11th top-10 in 27 career Sprint Cup starts at Talladega and his fourth top-10 this season.