2014/2015 Review/Preview: Tony Stewart & Kurt Busch
After missing numerous races throughout the 2013 season by breaking a leg during a Sprint Car accident, Tony Stewart entered the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season hoping to have a clean and smooth year. However, once again, Stewart had another year of bad luck both on and off the race track.
Stewart started the year off on a slow start as he finished 16th or worst in the first three races of the season. Stewart found slight luck at the Bristol Motor Speedway and the Auto Club Speedway as he brought home a pair of top-five finishes. Over the next six races, Stewart brought home only three finishes inside the top-10. Going into the second half of the regular season, Stewart sat 21st in the points standings, looking for anything to turn the year around.
With the second half of the season beginning in race 14 at the Pocono Raceway, Stewart was able to lead some laps but couldn’t quite keep his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet up there. By finishing the race in 13th, the team went into next week’s race sitting 18th in points, just two spots out from holding the final Chase for the Sprint Cup spot. Things seemed to be going right finally for Stewart, as he continues to make-up spots in points, but things start to turn for the worst once again. Over the next four races, Stewart captured only one top-10 finish with the rest of those being 17th or worst.
On the night before the Cheez-it 355 Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International, marking the second and final road course race of the season, Stewart was involved in an incident that killed Sprint Car driver, Kevin Ward Jr. at a local dirt track. During this time, Stewart sat out for three races while the investigation was being completed by the local sheriffs department.
Stewart finally decided to return to his No. 14 Chevrolet at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, sitting 26th in points. While coming into the weekend looking to make a statement, it turned out to be a huge disappointment as he finished 41st after getting into an accident on lap 170. Despite missing three races, NASCAR said that Stewart would be eligible to make the Chase if he were to win a race. His last chance came the next weekend at Richmond, but just like his entire season, it turned out to be a disappointment once again as he fell short with a finish of 15th.
After missing the Chase for the Sprint Cup, at this point it was just a test session to get prepared for the 2015 season. The last 10 races of the year were pretty much the same for Stewart, earning only one top-10 finish. This marked his first season in the series where he didn’t capture a single victory all year long.
After a solid 2013 performance with the Furniture Row Racing team, Kurt Busch entered the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with a fresh team and outlook going into the new season with the Stewart-Haas Racing organization. Like his teammate and co-owner, Stewart, Busch also had a very up and down season in his No. 41 Chevrolet.
The first four races of the season were all disappointments for Busch as the team brought home finishes of 21st or worst. Finally, in races five and six at the Auto Club Speedway and the Martinsville Speedway, the brand-new No. 41 team earned back-to-back top-five finishes, earning the victory at Martinsville Speedway that would earn them a spot into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. In the next seven races, Busch would have even much more bad luck as he earned finishes of 18th or worst.
With 13 weeks remaining until the start of the Chase, Busch finally pulled a third-place run at the Pocono Raceway. With the solid performance at Pocono, Busch entered the summer portion of the calendar the next three weekends with three consecutive top-15 runs, improving his position of 26th in points. With nine races left until the start of the Chase, Busch and the team were hoping to pull decent finishes to go into the Chase on a strong note. However, these nine races were just the opposite as the team hoped. Despite the inconsistent runs, the Las Vegas native wiggled his way to 21st in points.
Looking for a great weekend, Busch entered the Chase for the Sprint Cup opener at the Chicagoland Speedway doing just that. After starting the event from the 14th position, Busch busted off an eighth-place finish. Over the next six weeks, the No. 41 team once again showed very inconsistent runs, earning only two top-15 finishes during this time. This caused him to be eliminated after the first round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Busch hit a little luck in the last three races, earning an 11th or better to end the disappointing season on a strong note.
The 2015 season will be a very interesting one for Stewart as he looks to compete in his first full-time season since 2012. I think Stewart will have a very strong year if he can stay behind the wheel for an entire slate. In 2012, Stewart finished ninth in points, so the team definitely has what it takes to get the job done. As for Busch, it’ll certainly be interesting as well. With ending the last three races strong, I think it’ll give the entire No. 41 team strong momentum to have a great 2015 season. Not to make excuses for the team, but since 2014 was the first year with a four car operation, I think 2015 will be the best yet for the Stewart-haas Racing organization.
Brett has been following the sport of NASCAR since the beginning of the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Since Brett was 13, he has had a passion of chasing a job in sports that not many get the opportunity of doing. He has been in the NASCAR media since the middle of the 2010 season. Since then, he has been a part of many racing podcast shows to improve his talents. You can find him on twitter @NASCAR_Brett.