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TONY STEWART - 2014 Pocono II Race Report
Event: GoBowling.com 400 (Round 21 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Pocono (Pa.) Raceway (2.5-mile triangle)
Start/Finish: 16th/36th (Running, completed 124 of 160 laps)
Points: 19th (537 points, 220 out of first)
Winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr. of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Tony Stewart will never know what might have been in the GoBowling.com 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, where varying pit strategies ruled the day. The driver of the No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) was collected in a multicar accident on lap 117 and was left with a 36th-place finish.
“It (the wreck) was far enough ahead of us that I never even saw how it started,” said Stewart, a two-time Sprint Cup winner at Pocono (June 2003 and June 2009). “We were just coming off of (turn) two there, and somebody got sideways. They started wrecking in front of us, and we got caught up in it. I ended up on top of Paul Menard’s hood, so it wasn’t where we wanted to end up with our Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevy, by any means.”
Stewart arrived in Pocono as one of the drivers to watch after an outstanding showing during the track’s June race, where he led four times for 24 laps before a pit-road speeding penalty derailed his chances for a win.
When the green flag dropped for the series’ second stop of the season at Pocono, Stewart took a conservative approach rather than making a mad dash for the front, noting early that the No. 14 Chevrolet was turning well through the corners, but needed more security in the rear of the car.
Because pit strategies tend to run the gamut at the “Tricky Triangle,” there was a lot of back-and-forth in the running order throughout the race. Stewart’s No. 14 team was just one of a handful that elected to make a pit stop during the first caution on lap 10, with strategies ranging from fuel-only stops to two- and four-tire stops. Crew chief Chad Johnston elected to change right-side tires, placing Stewart 27th for the lap-13 restart. By the time the team made its second stop of the day – during the third caution period on lap 30 – Stewart was up to 11th place.
For the most part, only minor adjustments were required on the No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet. Changing weather conditions throughout the day affected the way the car responded to the track, and Stewart would report tight and loose handling at different stages of the race. The most disconcerting problem to plague Stewart was a perceived problem with a wheel hub during a green-flag run from laps 70 to 100. Stewart noted that the issue gave the car the feeling of being “bound” getting into the turns. A pit stop for four tires, a wedge adjustment and fuel, however, seemed to alleviate the problem.
Stewart was in the top-15 on lap 117 when driver Denny Hamlin got loose, causing problems for other drivers racing in his vicinity. A handful of cars made hard contact, blocking the track and giving Stewart nowhere to go to avoid the collision. After getting bounced around, Stewart’s Chevy eventually came to rest on top of Paul Menard’s No. 27 Chevrolet.
While the damage was extensive, the No. 14 team worked to get the car back on the track to collect valuable points. The effort enabled Stewart to pick up two positions in the running order and finish the race.
Faring much better was Stewart’s teammate, Kevin Harvick.
Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, started sixth and led twice for five laps en route to a second-place finish. The runner-up result was his sixth top-five this season and his sixth top-five in 28 career Sprint Cup starts at Pocono.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, started fourth and finished 13th after leading three times for 30 laps.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, started 10th and finished 30th. Patrick finished the race despite a hard hit with the wall in turn one, the result of a flat right-rear tire sustained when she brushed the turn two wall a lap earlier. It was Patrick’s 67h career Sprint Cup start and only her fourth at Pocono.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the GoBowling.com 400 to score his 22nd career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his second consecutive win at Pocono.
Harvick finished .228 of a second behind Earnhardt in the runner-up spot, while Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Hamlin and Kasey Kahnecomprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 35 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish the 160-lap race.
With round 21 of 36 complete, Harvick leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is 11th with 608 points, 149 behind series leader Gordon. Stewart is 19th with 537 points, 220 out of first. Busch is 23rdwith 488 points, 269 out of first. Patrick is 28th with 396 points, 361 out of first.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Cheez-It 355k at The Glen on Sunday, Aug. 10 at the Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road course. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its prerace show at noon.