Tony Stewart Says Farewell To Richmond This Weekend

Tony Stewart

After 18 years of Sprint Cup competition and 34 races at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway – a place he calls his “very favorite” track – No. 14  Code 3/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver Tony Stewart will take the green flag for the final time at the .75-mile ovalSaturday night.

But this weekend isn’t about nostalgia for the 45-year-old Stewart. There’s work to be done, and lots of it.

The Richmond race marks the end of NASCAR’s 26-race regular season and signals the transition to the 16-team, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs that begin the following weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. Stewart will join SHR teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch in the playoffs.

As it’s been all season, Stewart and his Mike Bugarewicz-led team will use the Richmond race to get their No. 14 car ready for the Chase. After missing the first eight races of 2016 because of an offseason injury, Stewart’s June victory at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and his seven top-10 finishes in 17 starts since his return have created a great deal of optimism in the No. 14 camp. The team hopes to regain the momentum it lost after a mechanical failure at Darlington (S.C) Raceway left it with a 35th-place finish in Sunday night’s Southern 500. Stewart is focused on closing out the season and his Sprint Cup career in strong fashion.

“The Chase is 10 weeks – it’s 10 hard weeks of racing – and it’s three, three-race segments to get to Homestead,” Stewart said. “In all of those races, you can’t leave anything on the table. You’ve got to use it up every week. It’s two-and-a-half months of your life that you’ve got to really focus hard on and be all in.”

While it’s understandable Stewart focuses on the big picture as a Chase driver and co-owner of a team with three Chase-qualified cars, don’t think the significance of his final race at Richmond will escape his attention. The three-time champion’s first of 49 career victories occurred at Richmond on Sept. 11, 1999 and, to this day, it remains one of his most cherished memories.

“That was probably the coolest moment in my career in NASCAR,” Stewart said.

The then-28-year-old Stewart outraced a 43-car field made up of about 10 current or likely future NASCAR Hall of Famers that included Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr., Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Terry and Bobby Labonte, Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett and Darrell Waltrip. The victory came in just his 25th Sprint Cup race – an unheard-of fete when considering Davey Allison posted the last rookie victory in 1987. Stewart’s victory also came with a first-year team at Joe Gibbs Racing led by crew chief Greg Zipadelli  who is now SHR’s competition director.

“We were a young Cup team,” Stewart said. “We didn’t have the best pit crew. We had young guys who went on to be great pit crew members, but we were still trying to figure out how to get on and off pit road well, they were still trying to figure out how to do good pit stops. We would lead, and then the caution would come out. We’d make our pit stop and lose five or six spots. Then, we would work our way methodically back up to the lead and lead until the next caution came out.

“Throughout that process, you were having to race guys. You couldn’t pass them in one corner or one straightaway. You would work on each individual guy running side-by-side with them for four or five laps before you could finish the pass. I just remember the whole race, racing those guys thinking, ‘This is the best of the best,’ and, ‘If I didn’t make any mistakes and stick to what I am doing here, I have a shot to win with these guys.’ It wasn’t a deal where I won it on fuel mileage or trick pit strategy. We were all on the same strategy the whole day. We just flat had to race those guys. I think that was the most proud I have ever been in a racecar.”

That night was the first of many successful nights at “America’s Premier Shortrack,” where Stewart has earned six victories – three in Sprint Cup, two in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and one in a Late Model stock car. He’s posted 11 top-five finishes in Sprint Cup competition and 19 top-10s and has led a total of 950 laps in his 34 career Sprint Cup starts at Richmond. His average Richmond start is 17.5, his average finish is 12.9, and he has a lap-completion rate of 98.3 percent.

Saturday night, Stewart hopes to add one more successful night to his Richmond memory book.

TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Why is Richmond your favorite track?

“I’ve always felt like Richmond was the ultimate drivers’ track. When we didn’t have all the downforce like we do now, you used to literally move around the racetrack. You didn’t get stuck in one groove. You could be fast there running two or three different ways, using three different lines. You could do what you needed to do to complement your car or not hurt it. That’s what I have always liked about it. It’s always going to be my favorite track.”

As a co-owner of SHR, what are your thoughts as the 2016 Chase approaches?

“We’re excited with three (Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch) drivers in the Chase this year. You figure, there are 16 spots in the Chase and we’ve almost got 25 percent of the spots with SHR. So we’re proud as an organization to be in that scenario. A lot of the organizations would love to have one car, let alone three, in the deal. Danica (Patrick) has one more shot to get in there Saturday at Richmond. If she could do that, it would make for a heck of year for SHR.”

What makes SHR so strong?

“When you have four cars on the track during a one-hour practice session, you have four hours of notes versus when you’ve got only one car you’ve got one hour of notes and don’t have anybody to bounce ideas off of. I think that’s what makes us a really strong organization – we have four drivers, four engineers, four crew chiefs who sit down in a room together and can talk about what our cars are doing. A lot of times, especially from a driver’s perspective, it’s just comforting to feel something in your racecar that may not feel right and have a teammate say, ‘Yeah, I’m feeling the same thing.’ It sort of validates what you’re feeling and it helps. A lot of times I think, having that many heads in the game there, we tend to be able to solve problems a lot quicker.”

Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Team Report
Round 26 of 36 – Federated Auto Parts 400 – Richmond
Car No. 14:      Code 3/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing
Teammates:    Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS
                               Danica Patrick, No. 10 Nature’s Bakery SS
                               Kurt Busch, No. 41 Haas Automation/ Monster Energy Chevrolet SS

 

At Track PR Contact: Drew Brown with True Speed Communication (704-498-7596 or drew.brown@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)

Primary Team Members:

 

Driver: Tony Stewart

Residence: Columbus, Indiana

 

Crew Chief: Mike Bugarewicz

Hometown: Lehighton, Pennsylvania

 

Car Chief: Jerry Cook

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

 

Engine Specialist: David McClure

Hometown: Sacramento, California

 

Engine Builder: Hendrick Motorsports

Headquarters: Concord, North Carolina

 

Spotter: Bob Jeffrey

Hometown: Bristol, Tennessee

Over-The-Wall Crew Members:

Front Tire Changer: Ira Jo Hussey

Hometown: Manchester, New Hampshire

 

Front Tire Carrier: Brett Morrell

Hometown: Windham, Maine

 

Rear Tire Changer: Chris McMullenHometown: Canton, Michigan

 

Rear Tire Carrier: Josh Sobecki

Hometown: New Kensington, Pennsylvania

 

Gas Man: James “Ace” Keener

Hometown: Fortuna, California

 

Jackman: Getty Cavitt

Hometown: Owensboro, Kentucky

 

Windshield: Justin Peiffer

Hometown: Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Road Crew Members:

 

Truck Drivers: William “Stump” Lewis and Rob Fink

Hometown: Linkwood, Maryland and Baltimore, Maryland, respectively.

 

Engineers: Lee Deese and Chris Chidgey.

Hometown: Rockingham, North Carolina and Gainesville, Florida, respectively.

 

Mechanic: Tony Silvestri

Hometown: Sylvania, Ohio

 

Tire Specialist: Russell Simpson

Hometown: Medford, New York

 

Shock Specialist: Dave Hansen

Hometown: York, Maine

 

Pit Support/Fuel Runner: Daniel Coffey

Hometown: Granite Falls, North Carolina

Chassis No. 14-1006
This car made its debut in April 2013 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. It started 21st but Tony Stewart wheeled it into the top-five prior to a green-white-checkered finish. Stewart was bumped out of the way in the two-lap scramble and, instead of finishing fifth, he wound up a disappointing 18th. Chassis No. 14-792 was poised for another strong finish in its second career start when it rallied from its 16th-place starting spot to lead 84 laps in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. But while in second place on the final lap, it ran out of fuel and finished 26th. With interim driver Mark Martin at the wheel, Chassis No. 14-792 returned to New Hampshire in September, qualifying 18th and finishing 23rd. Martin drove this car again at Phoenix International Raceway in November, qualifying 16th and finishing 15th. Chassis No. 14-792 returned to Richmond in April 2014 with Stewart back at the helm for its fifth career start and first of 2014. It qualified 20th and finished 25th. The car returned in July for its third outing at New Hampshire, where Stewart rallied from 19th to seventh in the race’s last 50 laps. It raced again at Richmond in September, qualifying 19th and finishing 15th. In September 2015, Stewart drove the car to an 11th-place finish at New Hampshire. In 2016, interim driver Ty Dillon drove Chassis No. 14-792 to a 15th place finish at Phoenix. He started 28th and quickly gained spots despite reporting a tight-handling car. A quick pit stop during a caution saw the No. 14 jump from 20th to 17th for the lap-57 restart. Dillon worked his way to 15th but could advance no higher despite extra laps in overtime. Stewart made his 2016 debut in this chassis on April 24 at Richmond after missing the first eight races because of an offseason injury. Just 84 days after fracturing his back – an injury that initially left him struggling at times just to sit down – Stewart raced hard for 400 laps, showing little to no sign of rust as he wheeled this chassis to a 19th-place finish.
Notes of Interest:
  • Saturday’s marks Stewart’s 608th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and his 35th Sprint Cup start at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
  • Stewart has career totals of 49 wins, 15 poles, 187 top-five finishes, 307 top-10s and 12,814 laps led in 607 Sprint Cup races.
    • His most recent Sprint Cup win came June 26 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
    • His last Sprint Cup pole came April 5, 2014 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
    • Stewart missed the final 15 races of the 2013 season, three races in 2014 and the first eight races in 2016.​
  • Stewart has three wins, 11 top-five finishes and 19 top-10s and has led a total of 950 laps in his 34 career Sprint Cup starts at Richmond. His average Richmond start is 17.5, his average finish is 12.9, and he has a lap-completion rate of 98.3 percent.
  • Stewart has scored the eighth-most points of any driver in the last 10 races. Stewart has scored top-10 finishes in seven of the 17 races he’s entered in 2016.
  • Stewart’s two most recent victories – June 26 at Sonoma and June 2, 2013 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway – were while carrying Code 3 Associates as the primary sponsor on the No. 14.
  • Stewart’s first career Sprint Cup victory came on Sept. 11, 1999 at Richmond. Stewart led 333 of the 400 laps (83.2 percent) en route to the dominating win. He became the first driver to win a race as a Sprint Cup rookie since the late Davey Allison on May 3, 1987 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
  • Stewart has six wins at Richmond – three in Sprint Cup, two in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and one in a Late Model stock car.
  • Stewart won back-to-back Truck Series races for team owner-turned FOX analyst Andy Petree in 2002 and 2003. Stewart’s win in 2002 was his first career Truck Series victory.
  • Stewart’s most recent Richmond win came in April 2012 via the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown – a 75-lap charity Late Model race.
  • Stewart has raced a Sprint Cup car, a NASCAR Xfinity Series car, a Truck, a Late Model stock car, a USAC Silver Crown car, and a USAC Midget at Richmond.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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