Sunday was a shocker to all when Tony Stewart seemingly came out of nowhere to take home the victory at Dover International Speedway. This season has been a bit of a slump thus far for Stewart-Haas Racing but after a good showing at the Coca-Cola 600 and then a win at Dover, could their season finally be looking up?
Stewart may have slayed the monster that is Dover but is this the start of the Stewart we all know and love? Stewart was off to one of the worst starts of his career, only logging two top-10s in the first 12 races. Stewart is usually at his best once the hot summer months roll around so seeing him win at Dover was right up his alley.
Looking at the beginning of 2013, many have thought that Stewart would miss the Chase this season, but with his win, he is eligible for a wild card spot if he does not make it into the top-10 by Chicago. His average finish this season is 20th and the first 10 races saw him sitting below 20th in points. He is currently sitting 16th in points with one win, holding on to the second wild card spot. I wouldn’t count Stewart out of the Chase just yet. He is just starting to hit his stride in the season and could easily make it into the top-10 in points before the Chase begins.
Stewart’s teammate Ryan Newman has seemed to be fairing the best this season at Stewart-Haas Racing. With six top-10 finishes, he leads the SHR Trio with the highest finishing average. Newman also leads the trio in DNF’s as well. His up-and-down season may not be the most consistent but it kept him in the top-20 in points all season. After the wreck at Dover left him with a 36th place finish, Newman dropped to 20th in the standings but he won’t be there for long.
Newman is said to be leaving Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of the season although where he will be going is still up in the air. Having a good final season in the 39 will be key in him landing a great ride for 2014.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s third driver may be one of the most popular in the circuit but what people have to remember, she is also a Rookie in the Sprint Cup Series. Since taking the world by storm in the season opening Daytona 500, Danica Patrick has been less than stellar, but she hasn’t been awful either. She finished an impressive 12th in her first appearance at Martinsville Speedway that garnished the attention of some of the best drivers in the field. Other than her 12th place and 8th place finish at Daytona, Patrick has finished outside the top-20 every time.
With an average start of 26th, Patrick hasn’t been too far from her boss Stewart. In fact, she has been him in a few races already this season. As a Rookie Driver, and looking at the performance of her two teammates, Patrick has done well to kick off her first full Sprint Cup Season. As the series heads back to some of these tracks for a second time, look for Patrick to improve from her first time there. There are also two more plate track races and a few road courses coming up and they will play well into Patrick’s skill set.
Looking at Stewart-Haas Racing as an organization so far this season, they have definitely had their struggles and hard races but they seem to be tuning over a new leaf. Don’t count Stewart-Haas Racing out just yet, their three drivers are just warming up.
~ Austin Dillon sits on the pole
~ Joey Logano has won the last 2 races here, can he make it three?
Green: Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr on the front row with Kyle Busch lurking in 3rd. Dillon leads lap 1.
Lap 5: Busch gets loose and saves it alongside Hornish. Loses 3rd to Kasey Kahne.
Lap 20: Dillon is off to a great start. In the lead since Lap 1.
Lap 35: After getting around Hornish, Busch takes the lead away from Dillon.
Lap 45: Joe Nemechek hits the wall to bring out the first caution after a tire blows. Takes it to the garage.
Pit Stops: Major changes for Kenseth, Busch, Hornish. Dillon comes out first. Busch fifth.
Pit Stop Uh-Oh: Parker Kligerman carries his jack off of pit road under his car. Forced to pit again.
Lap 53: Dillon leads the field to green but is quickly taken over by Joey Logano.
Lap 58: Allgaier, Ty Dillon and Brian Scott battle hard for 10th. Allgaier gets the spot.
REPORT: Mark Armstrong, front tire changer for Parker Kligerman, was hit in the leg by the jack stuck under his drivers’ car. He was replaced on pit road by the tire changer from Nemechek (in garage).
Lap 71: Busch has moved into second and gets loose in the turns again. Few tenths faster than race leader Logano.
Lap 79: Dillon and Kahne fight hard for 4th. Dillon fighting a bad change from last pit stop.
Lap 79: Elliott Sadler hits loose and hits the wall on the driver’s side. Takes it to pit road.
Pit Stops: Changes for most of the leaders. Dillon wins race off of pit road by only taking 2 tires.
Lap 85: Dillon and Trevor Bayne on front row. Kenseth stalls on pit road and goes from 3rd to 11th.
Lap 86: Bayne takes the lead for the first time today.
Lap 90: Busch is stalking Bayne in second. Takes the pass on the high side for the lead.
Lap 94: Battle fir 2nd between Logano, Bayne and Kahne heats up. Logano takes it.
Halfway: Busch still leads. Dillon’s 2 tire change is losing him spots fast. Down to 5th.
Lap 111: Allgaier and Ty Dillon battle hard for 10th.
Lap 112: Kyle Larson gains another position for 14th. After a great run at Bristol earlier this year, this is surprising.
Lap 113: Caution out for Mike Wallace after a bump from Kahne. Hits hard in the inside wall.
Pit Stops: Minor adjustments and tire changes for lead lap cars. Kahne wins race off of pit road with a 2 tire stop.
REPORT: Wallace’s front splinter is stuck in the safer barrier… makes for a longer caution.
Lap 121: Busch doesn’t get a good restart leaving Kahne to the lead.
Lap 122: Caution #4 for a car stalled just off the track.
Lap 128: Restart with Kahne and Busch up front. Busch gets the jump with 4 fresher tires to Kahne’s 2.
Lap 133: Larson, Pastrana, Annette and Scott digging through the field; all in the top-20.
45 to go: Busch is still leading but tailed by Kahne. Gap growing between the two of them and 3rd place.
42 to go: Logano dropping back in the field after leading laps mid race.
39 to go: Slide by Dexter Stacey leads to a caution flag.
Pit Stops: With most teams taking 2 tires, Busch leaves pit road 10th after taking 4.
34 to go: Logano leads with Vickers lurking in second. Three-wide deep in the field.
30 to go: Kahne, Busch and Regan Smith battle for 7th.
20 to go: Logano has over a second lead on second place Vickers.
18 to go: Kahne and Busch have been racing each other hard since the restart trying to make it to the front.
14 to go: Ty Dillon brings the No.33 down pit road with a bad vibration.
5 to go: Busch has made it to 5th. Logano still leads.
3 to go: Kenseth is catching Vickers and Vickers is catching leader Logano.
CHECHERED FlAG: Joey Logano makes it three-in-a-row at Dover leading 66 laps and dethrones Kyle Busch.
22 Joey Logano
20 Brian Vickers
18 Matt Kenseth
6 Trevor Bayne
54 Kyle Busch
5 Kasey Kahne
12 Sam Hornish Jr
3 Austin Dillon
7 Regan Smith
32 Kyle Larson