Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Team Continues to Make Gains
Date: June 15, 2014
Event: Quicken Loans 400 (Round 15 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (2-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 26th/11th (Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
Points: 16th (402 points, 135 out of first)
Winner: Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished 11th in the Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
While it wasn’t a win, it was another week of marked improvement. The team has advanced from 22nd in points to 16th in the span of four races.
“I’m really proud of our guys on this No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet team,” said Stewart, winner of the June 2000 race at Michigan. “We had a way better racecar today than we had all weekend here. We got the nose damage when the (No.) 42 got impatient there and blocked us, but we’re gaining on it every week, and I’m just very proud of the way things have been going the last few weeks.”
The tight-handling issue that plagued the No. 14 team all weekend resulted in a 26th-place starting spot for the three-time Sprint Cup champion. Despite the first 10 laps of the race being slowed by a pair of cautions, Stewart quickly made his way toward the front of the field and cracked the top-10 on lap 23.
For the first time all weekend, the handling on the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet had reached a neutral balance that allowed Stewart to attack the 2-mile oval’s sweeping turns. Throughout the race, crew chief Chad Johnston called for only minor air pressure adjustments during select pit stops as a way to keep up with the track’s changing conditions over the course of the 400-mile contest.
Stewart found himself on the inside row in ninth-place for a lap-127 restart after making a quick pit stop for fuel. As he was trying to make a pass on a handful of cars, Stewart’s progress was hindered when rookie Kyle Larson drove up to block and knocked a hole in the left-front nose of the No. 14 Chevy. During the next several laps, Stewart dropped back in the running order and was in 16th-place when the eighth caution of the race was displayed on lap 147. After an extra trip to pit road to repair the nose, Stewart returned to the track in 21st-place with less than 50 laps to make up the lost track position.
The last run of the race rolled off without interruption, so all teams had to make their finals pit stops under green-flag conditions. Some teams decided to short pit while others elected to push their fuel to the limit, enabling very brief stops for a splash of gas. The No. 14 team exercised the latter strategy to great results. Stewart took his turn at the lead on lap 188 before making his final stop on lap 189. He found himself in 11th-place by the time the stops cycled through and the checkered flag waved.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS for SHR, started from the pole and led six times for a race-high 63 laps en route to a second-place finish. It was his fifth top-five this season and sixth top-five in 27 career Sprint Cup starts at Michigan.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, started eighth, led once for 16 laps, and finished 13th.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, started 27th and finished 17th. It was Patrick’s 61st career Sprint Cup start and only her third at Michigan.
Jimmie Johnson won the Quicken Loans 400 to score his 69th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Michigan.
Harvick finished 1.214 seconds behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Larson, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 36 laps, with two drivers failing to finish the 200-lap race.
With round 15 of 36 complete, Harvick leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is ninth with 447 points, 90 behind series leader Gordon. Stewart is 16th with 402 points, 135 out of first. Busch is 26th with 315 points, 222 out of first. Patrick is 28th with 273 points, 264 out of first.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Save Mart 350k on Sunday, June 22 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. The race starts at 3 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its prerace show at 2 p.m.