The feasting has come in the form of a pole, a win, four top-threes, seven top-fives, nine top-10s and a total of 1,355 laps led. The famine has been nine finishes outside the top-25, oftentimes after a dominant run was derailed.
With the aptly-named Food City 500 next up for Stewart and his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, he’s looking to restock the cupboards.
Stewart did just that in his most recent visit to Bristol when he finished fourth in last year’s Food City 500 – his first finish among the top-10 at Bristol since a second-place result in the 2010 Food City 500.
Stewart rallied from his 37th-place starting spot and a nearly four-hour rain delay to nab his first top-five of the 2014 season. After almost going a lap down early in the 500-lap race, Stewart steadily and patiently worked his way through the field, cracking the top-15 within the first 200 laps. A savvy, two-tire pit stop just past the 400-lap mark propelled the three-time Sprint Cup champion into the top-10.
When misfortune struck his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick in the form of a broken oil line that sent him out of the lead and into the turn one wall, Stewart motored low to avoid the train of cars that stacked up behind Harvick. Stewart emerged from the chaos in fourth place and held onto the position through the race’s final laps.
It was an important finish for Stewart who was only four races into his return from a broken right leg sustained the year before that kept him out of the car for the final 15 races of the 2013 season. The fourth-place finish righted what had been a tough start to the 2014 season, much like the start of this season has been tough for Stewart.
A repeat performance of last year’s Food City 500 would be a welcome reprieve for Stewart, whose best finish so far this season is a 14th-place effort March 22 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
In a race sponsored by a grocery store chain, Stewart could use some of Food City’s wares to quench his hunger to run up front.