Saturday, Aug 13

Stewart’s Chase Takes Hit at New Hampshire

Tony Stewart put forth a workmanlike performance Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon to finish 23rd in the Bad Boy Off Road 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. But the hard work netted little reward for the three-time Sprint Cup champion as the result dropped Stewart to 15th in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, 11 points outside the top-12 cutoff to advance to the Round of 12.


Stewart is still among the 16 drivers competing in the Chase, but following next Sunday’s race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, the field gets whittled down to 12. Only those who have won a race or are among the top-12 in points will be able to continue their championship pursuit.


Stewart was understandably quiet after his 35th and final Sprint Cup start at New Hampshire. The 18-year Sprint Cup veteran is retiring at the end of the season, and the 2016 Chase is his last shot at earning a fourth Sprint Cup title. 


Stewart started the 300-lap race around the 1.058-mile oval from 22nd in the 40-car field. His No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS was decent for the first half of the race, hovering just outside of the top-10. But around lap 150, Stewart radioed to crew chief Mike Bugarewicz that his car “all of a sudden changed.” It was loose on entry into the corner and tight in the middle. 


The lap times confirmed this. After posting times that were not far off from those being set by the leaders, Stewart’s speed dropped off. When the caution flag waved on lap 167, Stewart and Bugarewicz took advantage and brought the Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevy to pit road. Four tires and fuel were added, but before the new Goodyears went on, a thorough inspection of the car’s suspension was made. Nothing seemed to be broken or loose, so tires were bolted on and Stewart headed back onto the racetrack.


The problems persisted, however, with Stewart describing his car as “numb”. And with a lightning-quick pace being set by the leaders, Stewart soon found himself a lap down. Despite a spirited battle with the Chevrolet of Austin Dillon to get into the position of earning his lap back, Stewart was unable to make his No. 14 machine behave well enough to salvage the day.


While the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver did not have a good day, the SHR owner did. Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, saw his teammate, Kevin Harvick, take the victory at New Hampshire. Harvick twice drove his No. 4 ditech Chevrolet SS to the lead for a total of eight laps, the most important of which were the final six. It was his third win this season and his second win in 32 career Sprint Cup starts at New Hampshire. Harvick leaves New Hampshire second in the Chase standings and is locked into the Round of 12 thanks to his victory at New Hampshire.



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