It was another bad luck race for Tony Stewart and Team 14 at the
evil little tricky triangle track known as Pocono. It started with Tony Stewart qualifying the #14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet 16th for the race in Long Pond, PA.
The race start time was moved up slightly because of possible weather in the area in the afternoon. I was actually kind of impressed- previously NASCAR has been resistant to moving race start times to outrun weather. I liked that the were being a little more proactive.
One the green flew, while Tony wasn’t completely happy with the car’s handling at the very least it seemed like the car was maneuverable on the track. He could and did pass lots of cars. And even though we seemed to be on a slightly off-kilter pit sequence (at least to me) it seemed to be working. Tony spent some time within the top 10! That is an improvement.
The team did two rounds of two tire pit stops, when Tony mentioned that the car’s handling changed fairly drastically. Chad seemed to initially think it was because the tires on one side had 58 laps on them and that was likely what the issue was. However after the next pit stop (a four tire change) Tony reported that he might be having a problem with a hub or bearing in one of the turns. Later Tony mentioned that it seemed to be getting worse and that he could hear it and feel it in all three corners of the track. Chad confirmed that they too could hear it. Tony wondered if it would hold through the race. He said it wasn’t bad but it made him nervous. Chad seemed to wonder if it wasn’t a loose heat shield rubbing against the brake rotor.
The team report said that the next four tire pits top seemed to alleviate the hub issue but we don’t know for sure because soon after on lap 117 Tony was caught up in an accident when Denny Hamlin got loose, people checked up and started spinning like an out of control bowling ball and Tony was one of several cars knocked out of contention like bowling pins. The rear of Tony’s car actually ended up coming to a rest on top of Paul Menard’s 27 Menards Chevy. Tony initially thought if they could just roll him off of Paul Menard he’d get going but it ended up not to be the case. They brought the #14 Code 3 Associates / Mobil 1 Chevy into the garage and actually ended up bringing the car back out where Tony was able to pick up two more positions. You HAVE to love that determination! Tony finished 36th and is 19th in the points standings with no wins under his belt. He has 5 more chances to make the Chase Grid.
The race winner was Dale Earnhardt Jr who collected his 3rd win of the season and his second win at Pocono completing a sweep of the Pocono races this season.
Notes about Pocono:
1. The radio communication this race for Team 14 seemed much more positive and much more comprehensive than in the last several weeks. Tony’s feedback about the car seemed to be more proactive and detailed. Conversely the deatiols that Chad gave Tony about the car and what they were doing and when seemed more informative as well which seemed to help Tony track what was going on handling wise. Plus everything was much more positive right down to the pre-race communication with his spotter. When Bob reminded Tony to pull his belts tight Tony replied he was “snug as a bug in a rug.”
2. Speaking of Tony’s radio communication- I heard him during his pre-race pep talk thank Mr. Hendrick specifically for the extra help with their engines.
3. In case you missed my post last night- I posted a BONUS Quotable Mr. Stewart because of an off handed comment by Tony after the wreck at Pocono that made me giggle like the girl that I am!
4. Jeff Gordon may not have had the finish he was hoping for but that 24 was a strong contender all race long. I wasn’t all to sure I wouldn’t be texting Misty a congratulatory text at the end of the race for the second weekend in a row. And how cool is it that he has now lead (well over 1,000) laps at Pocono alone AND his 24,000 lap in the Sprint Cup Series. Those are some cool states right there!
The Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:
Next weekend we are turning right and left at Watkin’s Glen! #KeepDiggingTony
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