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).”
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Jan 25, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
Sunday has dawned at the 53rd Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Jan 25, 2015, 2:10 AM EST
An early mistake from Ken Roczen shuffled him to the back of the field and resulted in him giving up the points lead.
Jan 25, 2015, 1:55 AM EST
Cooper Webb retained the points lead in the 250 Class but had some pointed words for Tyler Bowers after the race.
Jan 24, 2015, 11:10 PM EST
The 53rd Rolex 24 at Daytona is now underway.
Jan 24, 2015, 10:50 PM EST
UPDATED: A pair of disqualifications involving two of Abreu’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East teammates elevate the Chili Bowl champion to a 13th place finish.
Jan 24, 2015, 7:06 PM EST
Coon will work on MRN Radio’s live qualifying and race broadcasts in 2015.
Jan 24, 2015, 5:23 PM EST
Since resigning from Ferrari last fall, Montezemolo has taken over as CEO of an Italian airline and joined the board of directors for F1’s controlling shareholder.
Jan 24, 2015, 3:08 PM EST
Vets-Help hopes to not only host disabled veterans’ races at the track, but also build a residential complex and rehab center for vets and soldiers returning from war.
Jan 24, 2015, 1:37 PM EST
Former team competition director alleges that KBM owes him bonus money and commissions from a pair of sponsorships he says he helped get for the team.
Jan 24, 2015, 12:39 PM EST
The reigning World Champ and aspiring R&B singer aligns with London PR firm that’s home to some of the world’s most popular musicians.
Jan 24, 2015, 11:32 AM EST
NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray loves everything about racing sports cars, especially in this week’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, except for one thing — the noise.
Jan 24, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
Against the odds, the key storyline heading into today’s Rolex 24 at Daytona is a P2 convert going up against DP teams for the overall win.
Jan 23, 2015, 8:16 PM EST
At 707 horsepower, the last thing anyone would likely think is that a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat would lose a drag race to … an all-electric Tesla. But it’s true, sadly for Mopar fans.
Jan 23, 2015, 7:45 PM EST
The NASCAR team owner talks about his initial reaction to Gordon’s retirement decision, Gordon’s impact on the sport, and what his team’s plans are for after 2015.
Jan 23, 2015, 7:13 PM EST
On Friday, the NASCAR America crew discussed potential candidates to inherit the No. 24 car with 2015 being Jeff Gordon’s final season. One interesting name came up, that of Kyle Larson.
Jan 23, 2015, 6:34 PM EST
Victory Motorcycles will compete for the first time in the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle class in 2015, with husband and wife team Matt and Angie Smith heading up the effort.
Jan 23, 2015, 6:22 PM EST
Rex White, to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame next Friday, wasn’t just a great driver, he’s also a great storyteller. We share some of his best tales with MST readers.
Jan 23, 2015, 5:48 PM EST
Gordon has left the door open to competing in other series when his full-time Sprint Cup career ends this fall.
Jan 23, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
The four-time Sprint Cup champion isn’t the only NASCAR driver that’s gotten rich in the last two decades or so.
WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA, 5 p.m. ET – More on Jeff Gordon’s decision; interviews with Hendrick, Hornish
Jan 23, 2015, 4:30 PM EST
Also coming up today: Breaking down offseason moves from Petty, Stewart-Haas teams; looking back on an ‘Awesome’ 1985 Daytona 500; the Top-5 moments from the 2014 Chase.
Video from NASCAR America
- Rex White, NASCAR Hall of Fame driver — and storyteller 1
- Is a NASCAR TV analyst career in Jeff Gordon’s future? ‘I’d entertain it’ 2
- After wedding and winter to reflect, Joey Logano looks for more in 2015 2
- Jeff Gordon’s legacy of success transcends generations 1
- Jeff Gordon announces 2015 as final full-time season 43
- NASCAR: Trackside shopping set to change as part of new Fanatics deal (UPDATED) 10
- Brian Vickers to return to racing at Las Vegas after health scare 9