Tony Stewart looked to be the driver to beat in the Pocono 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, leading early and often. A pit road speeding penalty proved too costly to overcome for the driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), but despite the setback, he was able to rally for a 13th-place finish at the aptly named “Tricky Triangle.”
“It was 100 percent driver error,” said Stewart, a two-time Sprint Cup winner at Pocono (June 2003 and June 2009). “I don’t know how I got through the (dashboard) lights like I did, but I got to where I blew through all the lights and didn’t have any on the (tachometer) so I had no clue that I was over it. I gave my guys grief last week with a sixth-place run when I thought we should have run in the top-three. Then I threw it away this week. We had an awesome Mobil 1 Chevy all day, all from Friday through Sunday, so it was a great race. The driver just screwed it up this week.”
Stewart, who started 12th, wasted no time driving to the front of the field, cracking the top-five within the first 40 laps, reporting early and often his pleasure with the handling on the Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevy. Only slight air pressure adjustments were needed throughout the course of the race to correct minor handling concerns. The three-time Sprint Cup Series champ took the lead for the first time on lap 58 during a round of green-flag pit stops but relinquished it the very next lap to make a scheduled pit stop. He did manage to race his way back to the lead on lap 76, a point from which he led off and on through the next 40 trips around the 2.5-mile triangle for a total of 24 laps led on the day.
The fifth caution of the race was displayed on lap 119 for debris with Stewart in the lead. While making his way to pit road for four tires and a slight air pressure adjustment, he was caught speeding in multiple zones on pit road. The penalty was to restart at the tail end of the longest line, which placed him in 31st for the restart on lap 123.
It was a setback that Stewart aimed to rectify and quickly as he picked up almost 10 positions within five laps. With teams needing to make one more stop for fuel before the checkered flag, crew chief Chad Johnston elected to short pit in an effort to pick up some speed on the track with fresher tires. Johnston brought Stewart to pit road for right-side tires and fuel on lap 129. The decision placed the No. 14 Chevy in 28th-place once the last round of stops cycled through. Stewart rallied in the final 25 laps of the race to get the 13th-place finish.