Tony Stewart had high hopes that a trip to his favorite track might cure what has been ailing his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team, and that looked to be the case with only three laps remaining in the Toyota Owners 400 Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. But rather than celebrating his first top-five of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Stewart dropped from fifth to 18th during the green-white-checkered finish at the .75-mile oval and wound up in a post-race confrontation with fellow driver Kurt Busch.
It was a rough ending to a night that started in a similar fashion. The No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS was quite a handful during the first third of the 400-lap race. Stewart had battled a tight-handling issue in the middle of the turns all day Friday, and the problem persisted well into Saturday’s race. Mired in the 27th position during a caution on lap 159, crew chief Steve Addington elected to bring the car in for four tires and fuel while most of the field stayed on the track. The fresh tires were the catalyst needed to spur the No. 14 Chevy as Stewart started making steady progress through the field, cracking the top-15 for the first time on lap 218 and running as high as 10th during the next 100 laps around the track.