Aug 31, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT
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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Aug 3, 2015, 6:59 PM EDT
Quick recaps of the other two races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course weekend from PWC and MRTI.
NHRA: ‘Fast Jack’ Beckman earns 5th Funny Car win of 2015; Brown (TF), McGaha (PS), Krawiec (PSM) also win
Aug 3, 2015, 12:24 AM EDT
NHRA Funny Car driver “Fast Jack” Beckman may want to consider changing his nickname to “Faster Jack” because it doesn’t appear he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.
Aug 2, 2015, 9:47 PM EDT
Sunday’s win fulfilled a lifelong dream for Ohio-native Graham Rahal.
Aug 2, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT
Montoyas 42-point lead over Rahal all but disappears in one race.
Aug 2, 2015, 5:56 PM EDT
Sage Karam in the crosshairs again after controversial Lap 66 spin at Mid-Ohio.
Aug 2, 2015, 4:53 PM EDT
Wilson earns first podium finish since Houston in 2013.
Aug 2, 2015, 4:02 PM EDT
Quick thinking from Rahal’s strategists allows the Ohio native to storm to his second win of the 2015 season and slice the gap to Montoya in the championship race.
Aug 2, 2015, 3:12 PM EDT
Castroneves led at halfway due to off-setting pit strategy.
Aug 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Alex Lynn has made an impression during his rookie GP2 season, but can he make the step up to F1 in 2016?
Aug 2, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
McLaren’s CEO feels the reasons behind limiting in-season testing offer a “false economy”.
Aug 2, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Watch live from Mid-Ohio ahead of the 14th round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Aug 2, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Latvala wins on home soil for the second time in the WRC with a record-breaking display.
Aug 2, 2015, 11:27 AM EDT
Big drama in second Indy Lights race of the weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Aug 2, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
What to watch for ahead of Round 14 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, the Honda Indy 200 from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Aug 2, 2015, 10:24 AM EDT
Hunter-Reay finishes on top ahead of Helio Castroneves and Jack Hawksworth despite crashing his car.
Aug 2, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT
The Italian Grand Prix looks set to remain at Monza beyond 2016 thanks to a tax-free investment from the Italian government.
Aug 1, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
Mazda Road to Indy and Pirelli World Challenge race updates from Mid-Ohio as they happen on one of the busiest road racing days of the year.
Aug 1, 2015, 6:48 PM EDT
Enerson finally breaks through for overdue first Indy Lights win.
Aug 1, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Mercedes F1 reserve driver finishes second at the Red Bull Ring to move into the lead of the DTM championship.
Aug 1, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT
In his third career start in the ARCA Racing Series, Cole Custer breezed to victory in Saturday’s ModSpace 125 at Pocono Raceway.
- NHRA: ‘Fast Jack’ Beckman earns 5th Funny Car win of 2015; Brown (TF), McGaha (PS), Krawiec (PSM) also win 4
- After dream-fulfilling day, Graham Rahal isn’t worried anymore 0
- Graham Rahal now trails Montoya by nine points in IndyCar standings 3
- Karam’s Mid-Ohio spin triggers frustration, skepticism from IndyCar paddock 11
- Rahal scores dream win on home soil in Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio 4
- Helio Castroneves leads halfway through the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio 0
- What to watch for: IndyCar at Mid-Ohio (1:30 p.m. ET, CNBC and Live Extra) 0