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Race 11: Darlington

Posted by Amy in General | NASCAR

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America)

Qualified:20th

Finished: 15th

Race Winner: Matt Kenseth

Points After Darlington: 21st, 170 points behind current series leader Jimmie Johnson. 62 points behind 10th in the standings – still outside of the top 20 and not eligible for a wild card birth.

My Mood After Darlington: Cautiously optimist

I have to say that I went into Darlington kind of flummoxed. I ALWAYS want Tony and the 14 crew to have a great run. ALWAYS. But you have to admit- this season has been kind of sucktacular add that to the fact that Tony has never won in a cup car at Darlington and I didn’t know how to feel.  So I went in hoping for the best run and prepared for the worst.  I mean I think it was last race post where I said that we have to hit rock bottom pretty soon right- that soon the tides have to change and it be our turn to be back on the upswing.

I think that this was the first pre-race show I have watched in it’s entirety since before Auto Club.  I was surprised to here Chris Meyers hint at the possibility of a “shake up” at Stewart-Haas. He said it quickly in passing and then never went back to it. I guess we will find out if that is the case or not.

At least the team seemed to be able to keep Tony on the lead lap and help him work with his car this race.  The race at Darlington stayed green for a long time with pit stops happening under green. I don’t know if it was my imagination or not but he seemed to speed up towards the end of the fuel run when everyone else was slowing down. Or maybe he just wasn’t slowing down as much as everyone else.

Race Grand Marshall Stephanie Decker and her husband Joe speak with driver Tony Stewart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. (Photo Credit: Jamey Price/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Needless to say – I was most excited when they were reading off the top 10 at one point during the race and they mentioned Tony Stewart! I was excited!  How could I not be- it hasn’t happened a lot this season. It was about damn time. I just wish he could have stayed there.  I would have loved a 7th, 8th, 10th place finish. Hell if he would have won- they would have heard it over at the barbecue at my brother’s house I would have cheered that loud…hell I would have cheered so loud they PROBABLY would have heard it in the infield at Darlington and I live on the Central Coast of California).  I would have said that finishing top ten was NEARLY (but not quite) as good as winning.  However- he pancaked the side of his car after one of the restarts (he said he was over driving trying to improve position) by hitting the wall and earning the famous Darlington Stripe.

After earning his strip the old 14 car just didn’t seem to have the hutzpah that it once had. Tony finished 15th.  BUT he was on the lead lap and he finished better than he qualified so I have to say that I am cautiously optimistic about the fact that they seem to have a tiny bit better handle on making adjustments on the car that make it drivable for Tony. Hopefully this means that the team is on the way to finding out what the hell they are missing on when it comes to the car and it’s handling for Tony’s driving style.

Race winner was Matt Kenseth again- for the third time this season.

Notes on Darlington:

  1. Another reason to be cautiously optimistic about Tony Stewart’s run at Darlington? I heard hims say something that I don’t think I have heard him say all season long yet. While discussing possible changes to make on the next pit stop Tony came on the radio and said “I don’t know about changing much here- in clean air I’m pretty good.” YEY! Those words made me a happy Stewart fan!
  2. During the pre-race show they were talking to Jeff Gordon and he was mentioning that he has had the chance to work with great crew chiefs throughout his career and then listed them all out- but left out Steve Letarte.  I don’t know if that was a mistake (I am hoping it was) or a slight…was I the only one who noticed that?
  3. During the race they showed an in-car camera of Tony’s Stewart-Haas teammate Ryan Newman driving around Darlington. Wow he seemed all hunkered over and just UNCOMFORTABLE.  I hope the whole race wasn’t like that for him- I can’t imagine that would have been a fun race to run if he was like that the whole race- he looked nearly in pain.
  4. During the first caution pit stop Tony must have had a HECK of a pit stop.  He gained 4 positions in the pits at that point and I heard Steve Addington say “Hell Yeah Boys.” The Spotter say: “Great Stop!” and Tony say: “That was STRONG guys….STRONG!” Of course Tony’s pit stop wasn’t shown I wish it had been. Sigh.  That is why they should totally have the pit crew challenge!  I will miss it this week. I always loved it!
  5. Tony had some real gems on the radio scanner during Darlington but I think my favorite was when he could see Danica in front of him (but was laps down at the time) and didn’t like something she was doing on the track. He told his spotter to tell her to stop doing whatever it was she was doing or someone was going to dump her….and then he said he would dump her himself if she continued. I don’t know why but that cracked me the heck up.
  6. Here is a great article from NASCAR.COM called For Tony Stewart, Things Can Only Get Better. Let’s hope that is true.
  7. Only eight more days to enter the Smokin’ Birthday Charity Drive and Raffle

Gratuitous Tony Picture:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, smiles in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. (Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images North America)

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