Get Tony Stewart to laud a 10th-place finish and you might want to check the Mayan calendar to see if the apocalypse is near.
Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, onlookers may have done a Google search for “signs of the apocalypse” after Stewart declared he was “proud” of his 10th-place finish in the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
The driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) rallied from his 28th-place starting spot, which resulted from a trying day of practice and qualifying on Saturday that saw Stewart fight with the handling of his racecar, to post his 10th top-10 finish of 2012 and his 10th top-10 in 14 career Sprint Cup starts at Indianapolis.
“We just didn’t start the weekend off good enough, but I will say that I’m really proud of Steve Addington (crew chief), Greg Zipadelli (competition director) and all of our engineers and everybody who worked hard last night to make this car what it was today,” said Stewart, a two-time winner of the Brickyard 400 (2005 and 2007). “It was a lot better, but this is where we should’ve unloaded instead of trying to be good for the race. We’ve just got to be better off the truck.”
Despite a Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy that began the 160-lap race tight through the track’s corners, Stewart wheeled his way into the top-20 after just 14 laps. He hit a setback on lap 74, however, when a pit road miscue – where an errant tire had to be retrieved before the green-flag stop could be completed – dropped Stewart to 32nd.
Again, Stewart rallied, rising to 24th by lap 85, and cracking the top-15 on lap 110.
When the team made its final pit stop while under caution on lap 126, Addington called for a left-rear wedge adjustment that augmented a tweak to the tire pressure. With four fresh Goodyears and a full tank full of fuel, Stewart was set to go the distance with no more stops.
During back-to-back restarts on laps 130 and 141, respectively, Stewart drove his Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy with authority, manhandling it into the top-10.
“We just were a little bit tight in the center of the corner, and that’s kind of what we fought all day,” Stewart said. “But yesterday we had problems with security in the right rear getting into the corner and being really loose off of it. We got that fixed. We just got too tight in the center of the corner. So I was proud of the gains they made. It was a very inconsistent car yesterday, and it was a very consistent car today.”
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet for SHR, finished seventh to notch his sixth top-10 finish of 2012 and his second top-10 in 12 career Sprint Cup starts at Indianapolis.
The Brickyard 400 marked the fifth time this season both SHR drivers have finished among the top-10. Prior to Indianapolis, the duo finished among the top-10 March 11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, March 25 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., April 1 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and July 7 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson won the Brickyard 400 to score his 58th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his record-tying fourth Sprint Cup win at Indianapolis. Johnson tied Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon as the winningest Sprint Cup drivers at Indianapolis with four wins apiece. Johnson and Gordon are also tied for second on the all-time Indianapolis Motor Speedway win list with four-time Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears. Seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher is the track’s all-time leader with five U.S. Grand Prix victories.
Kyle Busch finished 4.758 seconds behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Gordon rounded out the top-five. Polesitter Denny Hamlin, Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Stewart comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 25 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish.
With round 20 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR duo in the championship point standings. He dropped one spot to eighth and has 652 points, 79 back of new series leader Dale Earnhardt Jr., and three points ahead of ninth-place Keselowski with a 70-point cushion over 11th-place Busch. Newman remained 14th and has 573 points, 158 behind Earnhardt and 70 behind 10th-place Clint Bowyer.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Aug. 5 Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at noon.