Tony Stewart endured an off night in the Samsung Mobile 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
The winner of two races already this season – both of which came at intermediate-style tracks like the 1.5-mile Texas oval – finished an uncharacteristic 24th, two laps down to race-winner Greg Biffle.
“We just couldn’t get the handle on this thing tonight,” Stewart said. “We started off really loose and then we sort of went the other way, and I needed to be freed up. We chased it all night. We’ll go back to the shop, tear it apart and see what the deal is.”
The finish culminated a long weekend for the No. 14 team, as its Mobil 1 Advanced Fuel Economy/Office Depot Chevrolet proved fitful in Thursday’s two practice sessions. Stewart and Co. hoped for better results in final practice Friday but instead Stewart brushed the turn four wall in the opening minutes of the session. With little track time available before Sprint Cup qualifying, the team elected to bring out the backup car from the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) transporter for some practice laps. Stewart qualified a respectable 29th considering the circumstances.
With the backup No. 14 Mobil 1 Advanced Fuel Economy/Office Depot Chevrolet being the same racecar Stewart used to lead seven times for a race-high 173 laps en route to his victory last November at Texas, hopes were high that 500 racing miles in the Samsung Mobile 500 would allow the team opportunities to improve the car on each pit stop.
Unfortunately, there were only two caution periods throughout the 334-lap race, which meant all but two of the No. 14 team’s seven pit stops came under green-flag conditions. And with a blistering pace being set by the leaders, it conspired to leave Stewart two laps down in 24th.
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet for SHR, finished 21st. He also battled an ill-handling racecar and, like Stewart, finished two laps down. Only 12 cars finished on the lead lap.
Biffle’s win in the Samsung Mobile 500 was his 17th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his second at Texas.
Jimmie Johnson finished 3.235 seconds behind Biffle in the runner-up spot, while Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five. Polesitter Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., comprised the remainder of the top-10.
The two caution periods totaled 10 laps, and seven drivers failed to finish.
With round seven of 36 complete, Stewart leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is seventh with 234 points, 39 behind series leader Biffle. Newman is ninth with 225 points, 48 out of first.