Finished: 30th (29 laps down)
Points: 400 (6 points behind 26th place Aric Almirola, 85 points ahead of 31st)
Intro Song: Better Man by Pearl Jam, which is apropos in my eyes.
Tony stated it best after qualifying when he said “It’s going to be a long (expletive) day tomorrow.” Unfortunately I don’t think he was talking about the weather delays- which were so plentiful it seemed to me that the race at Bristol was interrupting the rain instead of the other way around. The race on Saturday night was delayed by rain but did start on Saturday night only to be stopped after 48 laps because of rain. It was rescheduled for Saturday afternoon but was again delayed by several hours by, yep- you guessed it, rain. But they finally got the cars rolling on track because luckily for us all it doesn’t take long to dry Bristol between the banking and the fact that it’s short and concrete. But it was delayed again later in the race for “weather” to the point where it was red flagged again- but no for very long and then they were able to get going again and NASCAR was able to get the full 500 lap event in thankfully. And thank goodness because you diehard and likely still waterlogged fans were able to get your full money’s worth from your tickets despite being a little…moist.
Back to Tony’s comment after qualifying- I think he was referring to the handling of his car and not the weather. When the race started it he wasn’t happy with the handling- stating that he was very loose in his run on Saturday night. When the race finally restarted late Sunday afternoon Tony seemed to be suffering from the opposite- the car was somewhat tight in the center. When the competition caution flag flew at lap 85 at Bristol the team opted to come in for just fuel and a wedge adjustment since they only had 40 laps or so on their tires. The idea was to gain that significant and valuable track position because at the time Tony was running lap times consistent with the cars at the front of the field, only he was just stymied in traffic. This plan, while a solid one, didn’t work out well for the team for two reasons. First off Tony ended up being boxed into his pit by the 83 of DiBenedetto…so he went into the pits in 23rd and only came out in 19th. Also either the adjustment or the older tires didn’t bode well for the team and Tony started struggling and dropping positions soon after the restart. Turns out he was stuck at the bottom groove of the track (you know where that resin was laid down). His lap times down there were much slower than in the upper grooves on the track. Both Bob, his spotter, and Mike his crew chief attempted to get him up to the higher grooves but the team seemed to have trouble all day Sunday with their radio communications.
During the next caution the team took 4 tires which I believe was on or around lap 157 according to my notes. Not 50 laps later Tony reported a worsening vibration that he believed was an issue with one of the rear tires. By lap 230 Tony was making an unscheduled pit stop to change the tires. Of course none of this was really mentioned on the national broadcast until much later- so if you were only watching the race on TV it seemed that suddenly Tony was multiple laps down (my notes say 4). The team reported that it seemed one of the wheels may have been loose. However the change in tires did not fix the vibration and Tony made sure the team knew it. It seemed to continue to worsen and a very disgruntled and disappointed Tony ended up bringing the 14 Haas Automation Chevy into the garage for what was to be some fairly extensive repairs. I heard Tony say he thought it was a trackbar mount. I heard someone else say it was an issue with the wheel hub which made me think that the loose tire damaged the wheel hub before he brought the car in for the initial change of tires.
Tony questioned whether they should even bother to fix it- but Mike Bugarewicz was adamant that they should fix it and get as many laps as possible on the track. Thank goodness for Mike- because it saved the team 8 points. How do I figure that? Easy- when Tony went to the garage he was scored 38th but by coming back out to race he ended up being scored 30th. At a point a position that is a total of 8 points we could have lost if Mike had not insisted that the team get back out there. Way to NOT give up. Plus if they had given up and gone home- we wouldn’t have been treated to one of the coolest burnouts ever right?
As you probably know, Kevin Harvick was the winner of the race. It was the first win at Bristol for any Stewart-Haas Racing driver- so that is a cool win right there. Kevin chose to make the race win even more memorable for both the team and the Tony Stewart fans by getting Tony to do dual burn outs with him after the race. I mean seriously how many races have you seen where at the end of the race both the race winner and the team owner do burn outs? I would say it’s my first time seeing such as that. It was really an awesome moment and akin to his last lap with Jeff Gordon at Indy. My favorite part was hearing Tony talk about it after the race- when he let us all know that Kevin came up to his car after getting the checkered flag and asked Tony go get in his car and ride with him to victory lane…that would have been darn awesome and too bad Kevin wasn’t able to talk Tony into it. But Tony told him “I can’t just leave my car here on the track.” I think NASCAR would have understood this one time.
Our next race is in Michigan where hopefully both the weather gods and the racing gremlins are put to bed before the race.
Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:
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