It was St. Patrick’s Day, but there was no luck to be found by Tony Stewart in the Food City 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, as he finished 31st.
Just nine laps into the 500-lap race around the .533-mile oval, the left-rear tire on Stewart’s No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) deflated. Stewart spun and impacted the SAFER Barrier on the outside of turn one with the left side of his racecar. Stewart was OK, but his racecar was not.
Damage was extensive, and it took a prolonged stay on pit road to make repairs. But no one on the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 team gave up, and after 15 laps of green-flag racing, Stewart returned to the racetrack in 41st.
Through the attrition of others and Stewart’s dogged determination to make the most of a bad day, he picked up 10 positions to salvage the best result possible.
“I felt the tire going down, and I just could not get down to the inside to get to pit road,” Stewart said. “I was caught up on the top, and I couldn’t hold on to it any longer. It made for a long day, but we got what we could of out it.”
Enjoying a much better outing in the Food City 500 was Stewart’s SHR teammate Ryan Newman, the driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS. Newman finished seventh to score his second top-10 of the season and his 13th top-10 in 23 career Sprint Cup starts at Bristol.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 28th. It was Patrick’s 14th career Sprint Cup start and her second at Bristol.
Kasey Kahne won the Food City 500 to score his 15th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his first at Bristol.
Kyle Busch finished 1.7 seconds behind Kahne in the runner-up spot, while Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Newman, Brian Vickers, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 66 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish.
With round four of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He gained eight spots to climb to 23rd, 79 points behind series leader and reigning Sprint Cup champion Keselowski. Stewart dropped six positions to 24th, 81 points out of first. Patrick picked up two spots to rise to 28th, 97 points behind Keselowski.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 12 spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 16th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Auto Club 400 Sunday, March 24 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The race starts at 3 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 2:30 p.m.