Date: Nov. 6, 2016
Event: AAA Texas 500 (Round 34 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (1.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 23rd/31st (Running, completed 288 of 293 laps)
Point Standing: 14th with 2,166 points
Winner: Carl Edwards of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shop/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished 31st Sunday in his 28th and final NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
It was a long AAA Texas 500 for the three-time champion, who joined 39 other drivers plus crews and race fans waiting out the six-hour rain delay that turned the afternoon event into a night race. Stewart, like most of the drivers, struggled with the handling of his racecar on the Texas high banks made even slipperier by the weather.
“That was a long day and night,” Stewart said after the race.
The No. 14 team struggled Friday, posting the 17th-quickest time of first-round qualifying, but handling issues kept Stewart from completing a lap at speed in the second round. Saturday saw the team continue working on the handling issues in both practices. Then on Sunday, just as Stewart climbed into the No. 14 for the scheduled 1 p.m. CST start, the heavens opened, sending drivers and crews scurrying for shelter.
NASCAR started the race at 7 p.m. local time, and the cars ran more than 20 laps in single file to help dry the track before NASCAR threw the green flag.
Stewart started 23rd and held his position in the early going but quickly reported he needed adjustments to get through the center and exit of turns one and two. The lap-30 competition caution saw good pit work by his SHR crew to move the No. 14 to 22nd. When the race restarted, Stewart reported the handling issues were still hindering lap times and said it felt like both ends of the car were fighting each other.
Stewart lost a lap to the leaders on lap 65 and went two laps down by lap 108. The No. 14 crew spent the rest of the race working on a variety of changes to cure the handling issues. While the changes improved Stewart’s lap times, he couldn’t keep up with the leaders or overcome the early deficit and finished 31st.
Sunday marked Stewart’s final run at Texas, where he had two wins, six top-fives and 13 top-10 finishes while leading 801 laps. Before Sunday’s race the track passed out 30,000 Tony Stewart bobble-head dolls to fans. During prerace ceremonies, track president Eddie Gossage gave Stewart a life-sized replica of the doll.
Stewart has only next week’s race at Phoenix International Raceway and the season finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway left in his stellar 18-year Sprint Cup career.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Chevrolet SS, led the four-car SHR contingent Sundayby finishing sixth. It was his 25th top-10 this season and his 16th top-10 in 28 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 20th.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 24th.
Carl Edwards won the AAA Texas 500 to score his 28th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his fourth at Texas.
Joey Logano finished second to Edwards when the race was called official after 293 of the scheduled 334 laps when rain inundated the racetrack. Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five. Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 37 laps, with three drivers failing to finish the 293-lap race around the 1.5-mile oval.
Harvick and Kurt Busch are representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and after Texas – the eighth race of the 10-race Chase – they rank seventh and eighth, respectively, in the Round of 8. Harvick leaves Texas in seventh, 18 points behind fourth place. Busch is eighth, 34 points out of the top-four. Following the ninth race of the Chase Nov. 13 at Phoenix International Raceway, only the four leading drivers will advance to the final, winner-take-all Championship 4 on Nov. 20 in the season finale at Florida’s Homestead-Miami Speedway.
With two races remaining in the Round of 8, the top-eight drivers competing for the title rank as follows:
1. Jimmie Johnson (4,074 points) 1 win
2. Carl Edwards (4,049 points) 1 win
3. Joey Logano (4,074 points) +1 points
4. Kyle Busch (4,074 points) +1 points
5. Matt Kenseth (4,073 points) – 1 points
6. Denny Hamlin (4,072 points) – 2 points
7. Kevin Harvick (4,056 points) – 18 points
8. Kurt Busch (4,040 points) – 34 points
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Nov. 13 Can-Am 500k at Phoenix. The race starts at 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!