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Stewart-Haas Comes Up Short In Texas

Stewart-Haas Comes Up Short In Texas

by April 9, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images

FORT WORTH, Texas. — In what looked to be a promising weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing, the team were likely left scratching their heads at the conclusion of 509 miles of racing.

The Stewart-Haas Racing started their weekend off strong by giving owner Tony Stewart a quick enough car to grab the pole position for the race, his fifth career pole as a driver-owner. The SHR shop was also able to produce fast cars for Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch in qualifying, Harvick would qualify right behind Stewart in the third position while Busch would start from just outside of the top-10 in 11th-place; Danica Patrick would start in 24th.

The first 10 laps of the race were run under caution, however, once the field went to full green-flag conditions both Stewart and Harvick ran away from the field – Stewart leading 74 of the first 76 laps with Harvick leading one.

Harvick could only manage to complete 27 laps before his engine let go, marking his fifth mechanical issue and second retirement of the young season.

“Something happened with the engine right after that restart,” Harvick said. “The Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was really fast. It’s frustrating. I don’t know what else I can say. I didn’t get any indication that anything was going wrong. Hendrick engines are among the fastest and most reliable engines in the garage. We’ll take it back to the shop and figure out what happened. But that’s a disappointing end to the day.”

Stewart would begin to fade by lap-100, dropping down to the eighth position as the track surface began to change with the weather conditions. The driver of the No. 14 car would drop out of the top-10 by lap-140 and would fight for the rest of the day to put his car back into it. As the caution came out on lap-334 for Busch hitting the wall in Turn 2, Stewart – along with the rest of the field – dashed down pit road to get a quick change of tires. While most of the teams elected to change all four Goodyear Eagles, crew chief Chad Johnston chose to put only right-side tires on the No. 14 car – looking to gain valuable track position for his driver. Stewart restarted from the seventh position and would use the advantage of his newfound track position to drive his way to a 10th-place finish, his third top-10 of the season.

“We had a really good race car for what the track conditions were most of this weekend,” Stewart said. “I think we showed that with getting the pole on Saturday and then leading all those laps at the first part of today’s race. But the track changed a lot and the setup we had didn’t really change with it. Chad did a really good job keeping us competitive, but it was a big swing from the start of the race to the end of the race with the way the track changed. It was a really good effort and a decent finish.”

While Stewart celebrated a great recovery, Busch and his No. 41 team left Fort Worth wondering what could have been. After playing it conservatively with their tire pressures in Fontana, it appears that the No. 41 team adopted a more aggressive approach with the Goodyears this week – suffering through three flat-tires throughout the course of the race.

Busch was able to hold his own in the early stages of the race, however, the setup on the car began to go sour and by lap-40 Busch found himself out of the top-15. Last week’s Martinsville winner’s first tire failure came on lap 172 when a tire on the car went down as he slowed to enter pit lane; five laps later, Busch would be the cause for a caution period as he spun off of Turn 4.

Another tire calamity struck the No. 41 team as a left-rear tire blew out on the car on lap-219, bringing the caution out once more and severely damaging the rear end of the car. The trouble wasn’t over for the team as Busch would suffer another tire issue on lap-334, pancaking the Turn 2 wall and scattering enough debris on the track to bring out a caution. After a long day at the track, Busch would bring his car home in 39th-place.

Patrick had a quiet day at the track. After starting in 24th and working her way up to 22nd by lap-20, Patrick began to slip back and out of the top-30 as the track began to change. After working with crew chief Tony Gibson throughout the race, Patrick was able to fight her way back up to the 26th position before sliding back one spot to finish 27th.

“We definitely made the GoDaddy/Get Found Chevy better throughout the race for sure, but the track changed a lot today with the weather, and I think that really hurt us,” Patrick said. “It was disappointing, because we had a fast race car today; but we did make the right adjustments, and the pit crew did a nice job in the pits all day.”

After the conclusion of the race, Stewart managed to move up one position in the points standings to 14th-place while Patrick maintained her 29th position in the standings. Both Busch and Harvick took big hits in the standings as Harvick would slip one spot to 26th and Busch would lose five positions to occupy 25th-place in the standings as the team heads to Darlington.

Darlington Raceway is notable for being one of only two active tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit that no Stewart-Haas Racing driver has a win on in their career (the other being Kentucky Speedway.) After coming up short as a group in Texas, the group will be looking to make a major rebound in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Saturday night.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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