Event: Charlotte 500 (Round 31 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 32nd/13th (Running, completed 333 of 334 laps)
Point Standing: 8th (2,164 points, 50 out of first)
Winner: Clint Bowyer of Michael Waltrip Racing (Toyota)
Tony Stewart rallied from as far back as 36th to finish 13th in the 500-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
The box score shows Stewart gained 19 positions, as he started 32nd. But a chain-reaction accident following a restart on lap 16 damaged the nose of Stewart’s No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet. Three subsequent pit stops were needed to repair the damage and stay on the lead lap, which dropped Stewart all the way to 36th in the 43-car field.
“I was following the 2 car (Brad Keselowski) there, and he had to check up, big time, for whatever was going on in front of him,” said Stewart, who won the October race in 2003 at Charlotte. “Man, I drilled him. And the further back you were, the worse it made it. It really screwed up the nose of our racecar.”
Through perseverance and tenacity, Stewart began to claw his way back toward the front in the 334-lap race on the 1.5-mile oval, rising to as high as eighth before a caution period on lap 223. Stewart fell to 13th as the event became a fuel-mileage race, as the three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion had to back off his pace to conserve enough gas to make it to the finish.
“I’m really proud of our guys here at Stewart-Haas Racing,” Stewart said. “This Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy was pretty good. That’s the best we’ve been here for a while. I’m proud of the effort of these guys. I thought we might get a top-10 out of it tonight, but I’ll take this.”
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished 20th. Newman’s night was arduous because he had to forfeit the third-place starting spot earned in qualifying when his team was forced to change engines after discovering a problem during the final practice session Friday. Per the NASCAR rulebook, Newman was sent to the rear of the field, where he started in 38th, as there were other drivers whose teams also changed engines and had to start in the back.
Clint Bowyer won the Charlotte 500 to score his eighth career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Charlotte.
Denny Hamlin finished .417 of a second behind Bowyer in the runner-up spot, while Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five. Mark Martin, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 23 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish.
Stewart is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and came into the fifth race of the 10-race Chase in seventh place among the 12 Chase drivers, 46 points behind Chase leader Brad Keselowski. Stewart leaves Charlotte eighth in the standings, 50 points behind Keselowski.
Newman remained 14th in the standings with 889 points, 62 back of 13th-place Busch.
With five races remaining before a champion is crowned following the season finale Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the top-12 drivers competing for the title rank as follows:
1. Brad Keselowski (2,214 points) +/-0 positions
2. Jimmie Johnson (2,207 points, -7) +/-0
3. Denny Hamlin (2,199 points, -15) +/-0
4. Clint Bowyer (2,186 points, -28) +1
5. Kasey Kahne (2,179 points -35) -1
6. Greg Biffle (2,171 points, -43) +3
7. Martin Truex Jr. (2,165 points, -49) +1
8. Tony Stewart (2,164 points, -50) -1
9. Jeff Gordon (2,164 points, -50) -3
10. Kevin Harvick (2,158 points, -56) +/-0
11. Matt Kenseth (2,147 points, -67) +1
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2,128 points, -86) -1
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the sixth race of the 10-race Chase – is the Hollywood Casino 400 on Oct. 21 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with a pre-race show at 1 p.m.
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