"Disappointing" is right
They rolled the dice on fuel and came up snake-eyes.
The speeding penalty didn't help either.
Found this on NASCAR.COM this morning:Stewart, team devastated by Texas fuel shortageAfter early crash, in a position to win until speeding penalty changed everything
By Dave Rodman, NASCAR.COM
April 10, 2011 2:28 AM, EDT
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Tony Stewart's crew chief, Darian Grubb, succinctly summed up the emotion surrounding his Stewart-Haas Racing crew Saturday night in the aftermath of the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The garage was dark and the mood around Stewart's hauler was blacker as his men digested taking the white flag in third and finishing 12th, when the No. 14 ran out of fuel on the last lap of the 1.5-mile track.
"It kinda sucked," Grubb said outside his transporter, which the crew had almost finished loading less than half an hour after the checkered flag.
Grubb chuckled as he said it, but considering he had just come out of a debrief session with his owner/driver, in which they assessed a potential winning strategy blown apart by a pit road speeding penalty; and then running out of fuel on the verge of saving the night -- that Grubb would even speak was commendable.
"Highs and lows," Grubb said with a shake of his head as he recalled the race's final sequence, in which Stewart led twice for 12 laps in the final 90 circuits. "We basically had to take the hands that were dealt to us and try to be the ones that could make it [on fuel].
"And we could have. I think we had a 15-second lead and we might have been able to pedal it and save some fuel."
Stewart and Kurt Busch got in a position where they were slightly off-sequence with the rest of the lead group, which included dominant winner Matt Kenseth, runner-up Clint Bowyer and third-place Carl Edwards.
Busch made his penultimate stop on Lap 271 and Stewart came to pit road at Lap 276, with 58 to go. But Stewart broke the speed limit entering the service alley for what he planned as his final stop.
"More times than not, the fastest car ends up winning, and I thought that happened [Saturday night]," Kenseth said of Stewart's gambit. "I was real worried about Tony's deal -- of course, I worry about everything."
Kenseth could have saved his sweat.
"Instead, we got that [speeding] penalty and we just had to go, go, go instead of saving everything we could get," Grubb said. "I absolutely knew we were gonna be that close [to running out], and there absolutely was no way that he could save any fuel. After we got that penalty we just had to go and try to get every position we could get, and just hope for the best."
Even with coasting across the line, after losing nine positions on the last lap, Stewart finished 12th and unofficially moved up to 10th in the Sprint Cup drivers' points.
"You know, it took almost the whole race to crack the top 10, so to be in the position we were in there at the end, I guess is a good thing," Stewart said several hours after the race in a team release. "But when you're in that position and you can't capitalize, it's pretty frustrating. Speeding on pit road didn't exactly help the cause, either."
But it left Grubb and his men -- not to mention Stewart -- wondering what could have been after a gutsy comeback from a lap down, in which Stewart ran in the top 15 for the entire second half of the race.
"We know exactly what zone we got caught in for speeding," Grubb said, but dismissed the thought that Stewart might have been 'playing' the speed zones trying to gain an advantage. "You can't play with that zone -- we were speeding."
Stewart had cycled through that pit sequence just outside the top 10, but he immediately had to hit pit road for a pass-through penalty, and when he did that -- after apologizing to his crew on the radio and admitting that he had sped -- he fell well back in the field.
But "quit" wasn't in the cards for Stewart-Haas on this night -- although Stewart did decline to come out of his hauler to speak with the media.
"We had a crashed race car after our first pit stop and the guys didn't give up -- we came in and worked on it two or three times," Grubb said. "We got stuck in the pits between [A.J. Allmendinger] and [Marcos Ambrose] and it was just really a hard day -- but we kept fighting.
"We ended up staying out one time, trying to get into our fuel window and ended up going a lap down with that run, but the [free pass] came and that was awesome for us -- that put us in sequence to do what we needed to do to try to win the race; and it just ended up not working out for us."
But Grubb said the Texas race was a microcosm of what his SHR team was all about. Stewart led the points after the third race of the season, but had slipped back to 11th after Martinsville.
"We will absolutely go to Talladega [next week] with our heads up," Grubb said. "We've been doing it for a couple weeks now, and we'll keep doing it and keep fighting and trying to get better."