(WOMR file photo)
Date: Sept. 25, 2016
Event: Bad Boy Off Road 300 (Round 28 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (1.058-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 22nd/23rd (Running, completed 299 of 300 laps)
Point Standing: 15th (2,046 points; 11 points out of top-12 in Round of 16)
Winner: Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Chevrolet)
Tony Stewart put forth a workmanlike performance Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon to finish 23rd in the Bad Boy Off Road 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. But the hard work netted little reward for the three-time Sprint Cup champion as the result dropped Stewart to 15th in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, 11 points outside the top-12 cutoff to advance to the Round of 12.
Stewart is still among the 16 drivers competing in the Chase, but following next Sunday’s race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, the field gets whittled down to 12. Only those who have won a race or are among the top-12 in points will be able to continue their championship pursuit.
Stewart was understandably quiet after his 35th and final Sprint Cup start at New Hampshire. The 18-year Sprint Cup veteran is retiring at the end of the season, and the 2016 Chase is his last shot at earning a fourth Sprint Cup title.
Stewart started the 300-lap race around the 1.058-mile oval from 22nd in the 40-car field. His No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS was decent for the first half of the race, hovering just outside of the top-10. But around lap 150, Stewart radioed to crew chief Mike Bugarewicz that his car “all of a sudden changed.” It was loose on entry into the corner and tight in the middle.
The lap times confirmed this. After posting times that were not far off from those being set by the leaders, Stewart’s speed dropped off. When the caution flag waved on lap 167, Stewart and Bugarewicz took advantage and brought the Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevy to pit road. Four tires and fuel were added, but before the new Goodyears went on, a thorough inspection of the car’s suspension was made. Nothing seemed to be broken or loose, so tires were bolted on and Stewart headed back onto the racetrack.
The problems persisted, however, with Stewart describing his car as “numb”. And with a lightning-quick pace being set by the leaders, Stewart soon found himself a lap down. Despite a spirited battle with the Chevrolet of Austin Dillon to get into the position of earning his lap back, Stewart was unable to make his No. 14 machine behave well enough to salvage the day.
While the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver did not have a good day, the SHR owner did. Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, saw his teammate, Kevin Harvick, take the victory at New Hampshire. Harvick twice drove his No. 4 ditech Chevrolet SS to the lead for a total of eight laps, the most important of which were the final six. It was his third win this season and his second win in 32 career Sprint Cup starts at New Hampshire. Harvick leaves New Hampshire second in the Chase standings and is locked into the Round of 12 thanks to his victory at New Hampshire.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished fifth to earn his seventh top-five this season and his eighth top-five in 32 career Sprint Cup starts at New Hampshire. He is also in the Chase, and his performance in New Hampshire gives him a 15-point margin over 13th-place Jamie McMurray heading into Dover.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 18th.
Matt Kenseth finished .442 of a second behind Harvick in the Bad Boy Off Road 300, while Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 31 laps with two drivers failing to finish.
With one race remaining before the Round of 12 begins, the top-16 drivers competing for the title rank as follows:
1. Martin Truex Jr. (2,086 points) 1 win
2. Kevin Harvick (2,071 points) 1 win
3. Brad Keselowski (2,087 points) +35 points
4. Kyle Busch (2,085 points) + 33 points
5. Matt Kenseth (2,078 points) +26 points
6. Joey Logano (2,073 points) +21 points
7. Denny Hamlin (2,071 points) +19 points
8. Jimmie Johnson (2,070 points) +18 points
9. Chase Elliott (2,068 points) +16 points
10. Carl Edwards (2,068 points) +16 points
11. Kurt Busch (2,067 points) +15 points
12. Kyle Larson (2,057 points) +5 points
13. Jamie McMurray (2,052 points) -5 points
14. Austin Dillon (2,052 points) -5 points
15. Tony Stewart (2,046 points) -11 points
16. Chris Buescher (2,027 points) -30 points
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the third race of the Chase – is the Oct. 2 Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!