Monday, October 1, 2012

Smoke Signals: Tough day at the “Monster Mile”

Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR/Tom Pennington
Qualifying for the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway brought a mixed bag of results for Stewart-Haas Racing. Ryan Newman qualified the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet eighth with a qualifying lap of 158.297 mph (22.742 seconds), while Tony Stewart and the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy qualified in the middle of the pack in 24th after a lap of 156.597 mph (22.989 seconds). Danica Patrick, making her seventh Sprint Cup Series start of the season in the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet in conjunction with Tommy Baldwin Racing, started 38th after a lap of 155.025 mph (23.222 seconds).

Sunday’s racing action didn’t fare much better for the team, as “Smoke” led the three cars with a 20th-place finish. Stewart went two laps down early on in the race after pitting two laps before the caution came out for J.J. Yeley’s accident on Lap 69. Stewart, who took the wave around to get within one lap of the lead cars, got caught again after his second pit stop was followed closely by another caution. Unable to make up the laps, Stewart settled for a 20th-place finish.

“We just got caught behind the eight-ball there,” said Stewart on the SHR website. “We got a lap down and the next run we pitted, and we came back out and the No. 36 car (Yeley) crashes. It was just a domino effect. Every time you’d try to get a lap back, it would run all the way to the end. And as soon as we’d pit, the caution would come out again. So I don’t know what we’ve got to do to change our luck, but that’s just the story of the day for us. It was the best car I’ve had here for a long time.”

Newman suffered a similar fate to Stewart, losing laps early on as well as fighting an ill-handling race car; he would finish 21st. “Today just wasn’t our day, but Tony Gibson and the U.S. Army crew gave it all they had,” said Newman. “Our U.S. Army Soldiers don’t get down and don’t give up, and neither do we. We got a lap down early, and we never could get that lap back. Then we battled with our car all day long. But the guys kept making changes and refused to quit on getting the car to where I could drive it.

Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR/Tom Pennington
Patrick’s debut at Dover in the Sprint Cup Series yielded a 28th-place finish. “I was a little bit slow to start,” said Patrick. “The car was pretty tight to get going. That is a pattern, for sure, but it is better off that I start out a little tight and comfortable and we free it up rather than the other way around. We worked our way through it. The last run was decent. We made it better most every stop. That is a good starting place for next year when we get here, and that is the point of these races.”

Patrick’s next Sprint Cup start is scheduled for Kansas Speedway on Sunday, October 21.

Stewart dropped one spot to fifth in the Chase, 32 points back of leader Brad Keselowski. Newman dropped back one spot as well to 15th, 40 points behind 13th-place Kyle Busch.

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