Seeded: NASCAR seeded him 11th, but his team release has him seeded 12th.
Weird Observation: Am I the only one who noticed that Tony wore a Code 3 Associates firesuit during practice but a Mobil 1 Firesuit during the actual race?
Richmond International Raceway has the distinction of being Tony Stewart’s favorite track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit. Afterall he did win his first ever Sprint Cup race there, so what’s not to love. Since he qualified his #14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevy 14th at his favorite track- I was hoping it would be a good omen for Tony and his team. Plus I figured since he also won in the Code 3 Associates paint scheme in June at Sonoma that it couldn’t hurt that omen right? Well I was obviously wrong.
Pretty much at the drop of the green flag, Tony started reporting handling issues and dropped back rather rapidly. He was soon down to 21st! But then either he adapted his driving style or was able to make enough changes to the trackbar that he was able to work his way back up a little bit to 18th-19th position depending on the lap. Tony had a crappy pit stall because he had lost his pit stall selection after incurring his fourth warning for not passing pre-qualifying inspection back at Michigan. This pit stall made it extremely difficult because the crew chief was having troubles seeing him to call him into his pit box on the tight pit road of Richmond. However during the pit stop on lap 88 the tight pit road would cause a completely different issue for smoke and his crew. while coming into the pits Greg Biffle accidentally clicked Tony Stewart’s car near his pitstall, turning Stewart the wrong way into his pit box. The crew was left to improvise and left to service a car sitting backwards and canted out towards pit road. Tony even commented on the radio after the stop that he was sure that was something they never practice or even plan for but that they did a good job just taking care of one side of the car and then the other in a methodical way. Due to the awkward pit stop Tony had dropped back down a bit to 22nd in the field before the restart. However he soon began working his way back up the field, but then he started drifting back again, like a yo-yo.
It seemed the handling on the car had gotten away from them and throw a crappy set of tires in the mix and Tony was soon 29th and a lap down. Ahh it was disappointing to see our driver struggling so much at his favorite track. He was NOT a happy camper at all. But the team never gave on their driver and despite his disgruntlement at his position the driver never gave up either. He eventually became the lucky dog sometime around lap 277. That’s went the driver showed his fans just what kind of driver he is because he slowly started working his way back up the field, eventually cracking the the top ten and then moving solidly into 9th.
Unfortunately this is when the race went awry and Tony ended up tangling with Richard Childress driver (and former SHR driver) Ryan Newman and collecting other cars in the mean time. Tony’s car ended up in flames on the inside apron of the track- where he quickly hopped out at the instruction of his crew chief. His last time around his favorite track was done with less than 40 laps to go in the race.
After the race Tony took a few minutes to regroup after being released from the infield care center, while Ryan Newman chose to speak to the press directly after his release, ranting about Stewart and his actions on and off the track. It doesn’t surprise me that Ryan was upset. It doesn’t bother me that he chose to vent right at that moment. There isn’t a driver out there that hasn’t let a frustrated rant fly in the heat of the moment when suddenly faced with a camera in their face. That is NOT what upset me and many other NASCAR fans. In fact, I dare say I would personally rather have my driver rant then just get on camera and toe the line and say well it was all a racing incident because to me- him being frustrated meant that they were still passionate about what they were doing. After all Newman was in a must win situation. He had under 40 laps left to try to get that win as it was the only way he was likely going to make the chase field this year. The heat of the moment stuff? That’s part of racing- at least it is to me.
What not only surprised but angered myself and other NASCAR fans was the vile vitriol that Newman used in his rant which attacked Stewart in a vicious and deeply personal manner. Newman really lost all of my respect during his tirade. He started off by calling Tony Stewart old and stating that he indeed should be retired. Okay whatever, that doesn’t bother me. Newman took it way too far when he insulted Stewart by stating that he is “bipolar and has anger issues” and then alluded to (but didn’t out right bring up) the 2014 Kevin Ward accident. First off, throwing out the term “bipolar” as a means of insulting someone is really low in itself. There are countless people out there that truly suffer from being bipolar and other mental illness and by using the term flippantly like Newman did, he is really marginalizing people who suffer from a serious, sometimes life altering medical conditions that already have so much stigma associated with them. Tony’s not “bipolar” because he wrecked you. You can call him any name in the book (go ahead – I am not offended by most curse words and I seriously doubt Tony is either- we have all heard them and probably many of us have said them). My question is do you know someone who is truly bipolar Ryan? Who is being treated for it clinically? I would be surprised if you do because I seriously doubt you would use bipolar that way if you did. Alluding to the Ward accident? That for me, personally just made me lose any respect I had left. Tony was not charged by a grand jury. Let it go people. So yeah, any respect I had for Newman vanished after his form of castigation of Tony Stewart. For those wondering, Tony’s always said that he races other the way they race him. He took time to calm down before he spoke and explained that he was tired of being hit by Newman and that he was tired of being slammed into by Newman and took matters into his own hands.
But I am seriously digressing here. Race winner ended up being Denny Hamlin.
And Tony Stewart has made the chase in his final season as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Driver (his first since 2012). Whoohoo- I already have my tickets booked for Vegas! Yippe- I am one happy smoke fan knowing Tony’s going to be in Vegas!
Anyway Joe Gibbs Racing has all three drivers in the chase field: Kyle Busch is seeded 1st in the starting chase field, Hamlin is seeded 3rd, Edwards 5th and and Kenseth 7th. They are strong this year no doubt.
Stewart-Haas Racing has three drivers in the chase field. Harvick is seeded 4th, Stewart is seeded 11th, and Kurt Busch is seeded 12th.
Hendrick Motorsports has two cars in the chase field with 8th seeded Jimmie Johnson and 14th seeded Rookie Chase Elliott.
Penske also has two cars in the chase with 2nd seeded driver Brad Keselowski and 9th seed Joey Logano.
Chip Ganassi has a pair of cars in the chase with Kyle Larson, who is seeded 10th and Jamie MacMurray who is seeded 16th.
Richard Childress Racing has first time chaser Austin Dillon who is seeded 15th at the opening of the chase.
Furniture Row Motorsports (affiliated with JGR) has Martin Truex Jr who is seeded 6th.
Front Row Motorsports has rookie Chris Buescher who is seeded 13th in the chase.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship starts this Sunday at Chicagoland.
Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:
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