Monday, October 22, 2012

Smoke Signals: Stewart keeps Chase hopes alive with fifth-place finish

In spite of numerous incidents during the race,
Stewart brought the No. 14 home in fifth.
Credit: Getty Images/Tyler Barrick
Ryan Newman led the Stewart-Haas Racing contingent at Kansas Speedway with a fast lap of 190.853 mph (28.294 seconds) and a sixth-place qualifying effort in the No. 39 Code 3 Associates Chevrolet Impala for the Hollywood Casino 400. His two SHR teammates started at the back of the pack, however. Tony Stewart qualified the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet in 33rd following his lap at 187.859 mph (28.745), while Danica Patrick, in the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet in a collaborative agreement with Tommy Baldwin Racing, qualified 40th with a speed of 186.896 mph (28.893 seconds).

Stewart had the best showing of the day, finishing fifth in spite of various mishaps throughout the race: a wrench left in the car during a Lap 73 pit stop that brought Stewart back in on the next lap, an on-track incident with Jeff Burton 10 laps later that ended with Burton in the wall, and a spin on Lap 166 during which Stewart managed to keep off the wall. The final spin put Stewart in 28th with less than 100 laps remaining, but pit strategy put him back in contention toward the end of the race.

“An eventful day,” said Stewart on the SHR website. “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.”

Newman, who ran in the top 10 for much of the day, was just one part of 14 caution flags on the day. On Lap 181, Newman was racing Kyle Busch for position on the track when he got into the back of Busch, turning both cars and collecting Sam Hornish Jr. as well. Newman’s crew worked to get him back on track, but he was unable to maintain NASCAR’s mandated speed and pulled back into the garage. Newman finished 30th.

“I’m not real sure what happened out there other than the fact that he (Kyle Busch) got loose, and I ended up hitting him in the middle of (turns) three and four and spinning him around,” said Newman following the race. “Then we got clobbered by the No. 22 (Hornish). It was a chain of events, but he (Busch) just got loose in front of me, and it’s so fast here it’s hard to check up when he is getting sideways. I saw he already lost control of the car once earlier in the race. It’s kind of treacherous on the tires.”

“We had a real fast racecar, guys,” Newman continued. “I’m sorry about how the day ended. That’s not how I wanted our day to end.”

Danica Patrick did double duty at Kansas Speedway.
Here she checks out her Nationwide Series car.
Credit: Getty Images/Tyler Barrick
Patrick was also part of one of the caution periods, a Lap 154 incident with Landon Cassill. Prior to the accident, Patrick had moved as high as 15th in the field. “I have just been really frustrated with the No. 83 (Landon Cassill),” said Patrick after the accident. “He slammed into me on the front straight for no other reason than his radio communication, ‘She was in the way.’ I’ve always played fair. If it’s one time, I can imagine it’s frustration, but it’s been quite a few times with him. At some point, I have to stand up for myself so this doesn’t happen with other people. I chose today. The bummer about it is that my car is out, and he kept going, so I’ve got to work on how to do that.”

Stewart is seventh in points, up one spot from last week, and sits 47 points behind leader Brad Keselowski with four races to go in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Newman lost one spot, falling back to 15th, and sits 61 points behind Busch in the 13th position.

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