Aug 31, 2014, 10:07 PM EST
HAMPTON, Ga. – It was not the comeback that Tony Stewart had hoped for.
Having missed the last three races due to the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy, Stewart’s hopes of a strong run and finish in Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 ended with a disappointing 41st-place finish Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Stewart started strong, moving from his No. 12 qualifying position up to as high as fourth place early in the 325-lap race.
But an incident with Kyle Busch on Lap 122 all but ended Stewart’s chances for a possible chance at a win or even a top-five.
Things got even worse on Lap 172, but before we get to that, a look first at the good parts of the evening for the driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet:
Starting 12th, Stewart drove like he was piloting a rocket as soon as the green flag dropped. He was up to ninth after just two laps, up to seventh after four and up to sixth after six laps.
In other words, he gained an average of one position on each of the first six laps.
He eventually climbed up to fourth by Lap 16, and remained in that spot until the first caution on Lap 38 (due to debris).
Stewart got caught in traffic on pit road and dropped back one spot to fifth place when the green flag fell on Lap 44, and then fell back two more spots to seventh on the following lap.
Stewart essentially floated between 5th and 11th for nearly the next 80 laps before Busch cut off and made contact with Stewart on Lap 122.
Busch appeared to try and slide up in front of Stewart, but seemed to misjudge the distance between the two cars.
While there was no caution flag, both drivers suffered damage on the right sides of their respective cars.
Both cars came into the pits one lap later when Marcos Ambrose suffered engine, bringing out a caution flag.
Stewart was forced to make several stops under caution to get the right side damage repaired, while Busch was able to have his damage fixed on just one stop.
As it turned out, Stewart remained on the lead lap in 21st position until Lap 161 when race leader Matt Kenseth passed him, putting Stewart one lap down.
Things went from bad to worse on Lap 172 when Stewart’s car ran into the Turn 2 wall, sustaining significant damage. He took his car back to the garage and it appeared his night was over at that point.
“Sorry guys, you deserve better than this,” Stewart said to his crew over the team radio as he limped into the pits with extensive damage to the right front, including a shredding right front tire.
Stewart declined to be interviewed after taking his car, but crew chief Chad Johnston spoke with ESPN afterward.
“We got off to a good start,” Johnston said. “We went into today with hopes of finishing pretty well and possibly a win, but it just didn’t work out in our favor.
“It’s really good to have (Stewart) back … it’s kind of his homecoming back. We wish we could have had a better result and effort, but we’ll try to get it done at Richmond (next Saturday).”
Follow me @JerryBonkowski
Nov 24, 2014, 8:03 PM EST
The two drivers answer the call of the open road.
Nov 24, 2014, 6:26 PM EST
The future NASCAR on NBC analyst talks about how Rick Hendrick and his partnerships with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have impacted his life.
Nov 24, 2014, 5:30 PM EST
Dillon will run the No. 33 Chevrolet in the XFINITY Series in addition to continuing his full-time duties in Sprint Cup.
Nov 24, 2014, 4:49 PM EST
The former F1 racer won two Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, but he’s about to see the legendary track in a whole new light.
Nov 24, 2014, 3:32 PM EST
Next season, the campaign will serve as primary sponsor for Aric Almirola’s No. 43 at Atlanta in March and Darlington in May.
Nov 24, 2014, 2:33 PM EST
The nine-time World Rally Champion is now a full-time touring car racer, but will help kick off the 2015 WRC campaign for Citroen.
Nov 24, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
Hunter-Reay’s face on the Borg-Warner Trophy set for December 3 reveal.
Nov 24, 2014, 1:15 PM EST
IndyCar gets in on the Odell Beckham Jr. meme game, and it’s a good one.
Nov 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
Patrick Dempsey presenting and Brantley Gilbert winning makes for two racing tie-ins in a music show.
Nov 24, 2014, 12:15 PM EST
Hammer Time in Abu Dhabi; Bird was the word for Formula E in Malaysia; a look at the NASCAR beat…
Nov 24, 2014, 11:45 AM EST
Lineups set for this week’s Abu Dhabi test.
Nov 24, 2014, 11:09 AM EST
Jordan and Ricky Taylor drop their latest.
Nov 24, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
Frances busy with charitable efforts during and after the NASCAR season.
Nov 24, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
Danica Patrick will be in another GoDaddy ad, with an intriguing guest star.
Nov 24, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez the only drivers to benefit from double points in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 24, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
However, simply getting to the race must go down as an achievement for the backmarkers.
Nov 24, 2014, 8:13 AM EST
Mattiacci out, Arrivabene in as Ferrari team principal.
Nov 24, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
Gutierrez finishes as the lead Sauber in a lowly 15th place on Sunday.
Nov 23, 2014, 6:10 PM EST
The world of motorsports — particularly NASCAR and NHRA — is mourning arguably the best public relations person it has ever seen, Denny Darnell, who passed away Saturday.
Nov 23, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
The Charlotte and Texas brawls from this year’s Chase are still resonating weeks after they occurred.
Video from NASCAR America
- Steve Letarte reflects on Hendrick Motorsports career in “exit interview” (VIDEO) 1
- Weekend wrap: Lewis Hamilton back on top of the F1 mountain 2
- Maurizio Arrivabene replaces Marco Mattiacci as Ferrari team principal 4
- Abu Dhabi GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday 0
- Hamilton calls second title victory “the greatest day of my life” 3
- Hamilton clinches second F1 world title by winning Abu Dhabi GP 10
- The Final Showdown: Hamilton and Rosberg prepare for one final battle in Abu Dhabi 0