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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Sep 4, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to double up in FP2 after topping first practice on Friday morning.
Sep 4, 2015, 5:31 AM EDT
Hamilton finishes half a second clear of Rosberg to top FP1 on Friday.
Sep 4, 2015, 3:45 AM EDT
The Italian GP weekend kicks off with FP1 at 4am ET on Friday.
Sep 3, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
Here’s all the information you need to know about this weekend’s 61st annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis:
Sep 3, 2015, 6:54 PM EDT
The biggest and most important drag race of the season takes place this weekend with the 61st Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis.
Sep 3, 2015, 3:27 PM EDT
The GP3/16 breaks cover at Monza ahead of its introduction next year.
Sep 3, 2015, 2:39 PM EDT
Mercedes goes all-in ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, fully upgrading the power units on both of its cars.
Sep 3, 2015, 1:23 PM EDT
FOM comes out in support of “first class partner” Pirelli.
Sep 3, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT
Silly season has been a let down in 2015. Perhaps it is therefore fitting that McLaren is now the team to watch in the driver market.
Sep 3, 2015, 12:13 PM EDT
Hamilton goes blonde for Monza. He’s not alone in F1 annals.
Sep 3, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT
Perez expects to confirm his plans for 2016 in the next two weeks.
Sep 3, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Debris, not structural problems, to blame for tire failures at Spa.
Sep 3, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno make their picks ahead of this weekend’s race at Monza.
Sep 3, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
The European season comes to a close at Monza this weekend. Can Lewis Hamilton enter the final run of flyaways with an even bigger lead?
Sep 3, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
James Hinchcliffe a few weeks away from his driving return.
Sep 3, 2015, 5:38 AM EDT
Williams confirms an unchanged line-up for 2016, keeping Bottas and Massa together for a third season.
Sep 2, 2015, 6:16 PM EDT
The TV times for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Sep 2, 2015, 4:33 PM EDT
$2,500 fine levied against No. 22 team for pit road infraction.
Sep 2, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT
Jann Mardenborough steps up from GP3 into GP2 this weekend.
Sep 2, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Hinchcliffe recalls racing, commentating on Justin Wilson.
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