Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished 26th in the AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
“We pretty much battled the same thing we have all year with our Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevy, but it feels like we’ve made gains,” said Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup winner at Dover (June 2000, September 2000 and June 2013). “We’d take off tight, but if I was able to move around a little in traffic then it got nicer, but we just couldn’t get the car where we needed it. I do feel like we learned some things, though.”
Since heavy rain forced NASCAR to cancel all track activity Friday, including qualifying, the starting lineup was set per the NASCAR rulebook. Cars were lined up based on owner points, which placed Stewart 25th for the start of the race.
Teams did get to practice during two different sessions on Saturday, but it was for a combined time of less than an hour due to persistent rain. While practice was limited, Stewart and the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops team found a few adjustments that had potential for freeing up the car’s handling in race conditions.
The opening laps of the AAA 400 were fairly routine for the No. 14 team as Stewart turned patient times around the 1-mile, concrete oval while racing toward the top-20. But as the laps continued, the tight-handling condition experienced in practice became more difficult to negotiate, preventing the three-time Sprint Cup champion from cracking the top-20.
A chassis adjustment during the first pit stop on lap 40 didn’t free the car’s handling enough, stalling any forward progress for Stewart. Compromising matters further for the No. 14 team was the torrid pace set by eventual race winner Kevin Harvick, who started lapping cars within the first 50 circuits. Stewart succumbed to the race pace when he went down a lap to the leaders on lap 99.
Despite the setback, the team continued to work on the car’s handling by making various chassis and air pressure adjustments. At times the changes worked to Stewart’s favor, but they weren’t quite enough to allow him to leverage the car’s horsepower.