Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished fifth in Monday’s rain-delayed and rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway – an event that was neither easy nor quick.
After rain cancelled all activity for Sunday’s planned race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returned Monday to an even bleaker weather forecast with heavy rain invading the Pennsylvania mountains. But the race ran with the 40 drivers battling drizzle, wind and fog before heavy rainstorms arrived in the afternoon to finally end racing.
The bad weather couldn’t have come at a better time for Stewart, who started sixth but fell to midpack in the early going. With the field employing differing fuel strategies, Stewart bounced between the top-five and running midpack.
“We were kind of a like a yo-yo today,” Stewart said. “I was pretty happy to see the race end. I hate it for the fans who came back to see us race on Monday, but for just us, we’ll take a fifth-place finish and be happy with it.”
Monday’s finish was another excellent result for the No. 14 team, which came into the race scoring the third-most points of any Sprint Cup team in the last five races. In the early going, however, it didn’t look like a good day was in order. After starting sixth, Stewart pitted on the lap-15 competition caution. While many drivers took on two tires, the No. 14 crew put on four in hopes that the new rubber would give Stewart an advantage. But traffic on the 2.5-mile track trapped Stewart around 20th place.
Although Stewart struggled on restarts, when it was his turn to take two tires while others took four, he vaulted to the front of the field, and the No. 14 looked as fast as any car on the “Tricky Triangle.” Stewart moved to fifth on lap 96 and “yo-yoed” back and forth until the closing laps, when a dense fog that rolled across turn one reduced the spotters’ visibility to near zero.
The caution for fog flew with 27 laps remaining, and the field circled several laps under yellow. When NASCAR threw the red flag, stopping the race with 22 laps to go, Stewart was in fifth place. Then, heavy rain ended any chance of resuming the race.
“I don’t know what would have happened if we started again,” Stewart said. “We could have gained a few positions, but we probably could have lost some as well.”
Monday marked the No. 14 team’s fourth top-5 and seventh top-10 finish of the 2016 season. It was Stewart’s 187th top-five and 306th top-10 finish in his 603 career races. He finishes his career at Pocono Raceway with two victories, 13 top-fives and 24 top-10s in 36 Sprint Cup races.
Stewart and his SHR teammates Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick drove nearly identically painted Mobil 1 paint schemes throughout the four days of Pocono as part of Mobil 1’s “Triple Threat” weekend. Harvick led the SHR contingent by driving his No. 4 Chevrolet to a fourth-place finish. It was his ninth top-five this season and his eighth top-five in 32 career Sprint Cup starts at Pocono.