Smoke Signals: Stewart Powers to Top Five Finish at Texas

Friday’s qualifying session for the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway was a rough one for the drivers of Stewart-Haas Racing. Owner/driver Tony Stewart qualified 21st with a fast lap of 188.042 mph (28.717 seconds) in the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala, while Ryan Newman qualified the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet 36th with a speed of 186.368 mph (28.975 seconds). Danica Patrick, driving the No. 10 Chevrolet in conjunction with Tommy Baldwin Racing, qualified 32nd after a fast lap of 186.541 mph (28.948 seconds).

Stewart fought an ill-handling race car throughout the event, but crew chief Steve Addington finally found the magical combination during a pit stop on Lap 276. A track bar adjustment, partnered with the numerous other changes made throughout the event and a quick pit stop from the No. 14 crew, moved Stewart from 13th to seventh on the restart. He remained in the top 10 for the remainder of the race, then passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. during the green-white-checkered finish to grab a fifth-place finish.

Tony Stewart and crew chief Steve Addinton
Credit: Skirts and Scuffs
“What an awesome, awesome comeback,” said Stewart post-race on the SHR website. “I know a fifth-place run isn't normally something to celebrate, but the setup we ran in the car was something that with 30 minutes to go in happy hour yesterday, we tried. The car wasn't handling very well, and I just asked Steve Addington, I said, ‘Listen, even if it’s a big step backward, I want to try to make a big step forward.’”

Stewart continued, “We took almost until the last three minutes of practice; we got back on the racetrack and got six laps on this setup with this package. And then all day Steve just kept tweaking on it and working on it, and we threw a lot of big things at it to get it nice. But at the end, that was the best the car had been. I’m so proud of the effort of him and the crew yesterday and the pit crew today. Those last two stops they did were money. They really, really stepped it up. Probably the happiest I’ve ever been to run fifth in a long time.”

Newman and his new crew chief, Matt Borland, staged another impressive comeback on Sunday. After rallying from two laps down to finish 11th at Martinsville Speedway last weekend, the duo not only recovered from a poor qualifying effort on Friday, they bounced back from an unscheduled pit stop for a loose right-front wheel with just over 100 laps remaining to collect Newman’s 21st top 15 finish of the season.

Newman, running in 10th place at the time, felt the loose wheel on the car following a pit stop on Lap 223; he gave up the position to change right-side tires while still under caution, restarting 25th on Lap 227. Newman came in again under the caution flag on Lap 321 for right-side tires and a track bar adjustment, and with just 14 laps remaining in the race, came out of the pits 15th. He was able to work his way up to 12th during the G-W-C finish.

“We came a long way from where we were at the start of the weekend,” said Newman on the website. “We were really off both days and qualified in the back. The guys made a lot of changes to the car last night and this morning. We ended up with a pretty good little Quicken Loans Chevrolet. Then to get back all the spots that we lost when we had to pit a second time under caution for the loose wheel was pretty impressive. It was a great effort by everyone on the team, and I’m proud of our effort.”

Patrick earned the best finish of her short Sprint Cup Series career so far with a 24th-place finish in her ninth start. In her first race with new crew chief Tony Gibson, who moved over from Newman’s team, Patrick stayed on the lead lap for much of the race to improve on her previous best finish of 25th, which she earned at Chicagoland in September.

Danica Patrick addresses the media at TMS.
Credit: Skirts and Scuffs
“We had a really nice first weekend together,” said Patrick said post-race. “It was really steady from the beginning. The GoDaddy Chevy unloaded, and it had speed right off the get-go. We just kept on improving with it. I felt like it was a nice progression of the weekend, where I actually felt like I knew I why I went faster and I knew why I went slower. In the race, we were creeping along. We spent most of the race tight, but there late in the race we finally got it freed up enough to start really running some good speed.”

Gibson echoed Patrick’s sentiments. “It was a great day and a great weekend for the first weekend working together. Qualifying went really well, and practice went really well. She had an awesome race, and she did a great job. We did the wave-around twice and got back on the lead lap early, and she stayed on the lead lap. She ran with guys that she’s never run with before: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin. To come here and run on the lead lap and a shot at a top-20 was pretty impressive.”

Stewart moved up from 10th in points to eighth with the top five finish, 80 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. Newman moved back into the 14th spot in points, 79 back of Kyle Busch.
Smoke Signals: Stewart Powers to Top Five Finish at Texas Smoke Signals: Stewart Powers to Top Five Finish at Texas Reviewed by Paula on Monday, November 05, 2012 Rating: 5