Tony Stewart drove from the back to the front three times to finish fifth in the Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. Stewart, the driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), started 33rd in the 43-car field and had to overcome a botched pit stop, an incident with Jeff Burton and a spin to record his sixth top-five in 14 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile oval.
“Our guys led by (crew chief) Steve Addington – they never gave up today. Really proud of their effort,” said Stewart, who won at Kansas in October 2006 and October 2009. “That’s how we won a championship last year, by never giving up.
“We probably had to pass more cars than anybody today, but that seems to be our M.O. We seem to have to do that every week. We’ve got a little bit of work to do, but we’re gaining on it. We worked with a little different package this week. We still didn’t get it right, but we got pretty close.”
Stewart passed a total of 74 cars during the 267-lap race around the newly paved track. In addition to overcoming his 33rd-place starting spot, Stewart handled these bits of adversity en route to his 11th top-five finish of the season:
A pit miscue on lap 73. The wedge wrench was left in the car, forcing a return to pit road on lap 74.
A lap 84 incident with Burton. Stewart caught Burton as his No. 31 Chevrolet bobbled off turn four and hit the left-rear corner of Burton’s bumper, sending Burton into the wall.
A spin on lap 166. Stewart kept his car off the wall in an impressive display of driving prowess. Many of his counterparts could not perform similar saves, which accounted for a race-record 14 caution periods for 66 laps, with 16 drivers failing to finish.
After each one of those setbacks, Stewart had to rally his way toward the front. Perhaps the most impressive came after his lap 166 spin. Stewart had just cracked the top-10 by passing Kasey Kahne and then looped his Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet off turn two.
With four fresh Goodyears after the spin, Stewart restarted in 28th with less than 100 laps remaining. His tenacious drive augmented Addington’s savvy pit calls, most notably a two-tire stop on lap 218 that put Stewart in second place behind race leader Matt Kenseth for the lap 223 restart.
The pit strategy bought Stewart track position, but the cars around him were stronger. Stewart still held his ground in the closing laps, giving up only three positions to finish fifth.
“An eventful day,” Stewart said. “Happy to get a top-five out of it. We have a ways to go, but I’m really proud of our guys. We had some stuff to deal with early in the race, and our guys never quit.”
Stewart’s top-five run was the lone bright spot for SHR at Kansas as his teammates suffered disappointing finishes in the Hollywood Casino 400.
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Code 3 Associates Chevrolet for SHR, finished 30th after being involved in an accident with Kyle Busch on lap 183. Newman’s car was too damaged to finish the race.
SHR driver Danica Patrick, who is driving the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing via a collaborative agreement with SHR, finished 32nd after being involved in an accident with Landon Cassill on lap 156. Like Newman, her car was too damaged to continue.
Kenseth won the Hollywood Casino 400 to score his 24th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Kansas.
Martin Truex Jr. finished .495 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Paul Menard, Kahne and Stewart rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Regan Smith, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon comprised the remainder of the top-10.
Stewart is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and came into the sixth race of the 10-race Chase in eighth place among the 12 Chase drivers, 50 points behind Chase leader Keselowski. Stewart leaves Kansas seventh in the standings, 47 points behind Keselowski.
Newman dropped one spot to 15th in the standings with 903 points, 61 back of 13th-place Busch.