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Sprint Cup - Tony Stewart Dover Race Report

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Dover, May 16, 2011: The only positive for Tony Stewart in Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway was that in the fall of 1997, race officials lowered the distance of all Dover Sprint Cup races from 500 to 400 miles. Otherwise, a miserable Sunday drive at the 1-mile concrete oval in the capital city of Delaware would have been even longer for Stewart and his No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet team as the driver-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) battled an ill-handling car to an uncharacteristic 29th-place result.

Stewart started the 400-lap event from 27th in the 43-car field and was able to crack the top-20 within the first 50 laps. Despite gaining several spots, Stewart radioed to crew chief Darian Grubb that he was battling a tight-handling condition. So, during the first stop of the day on lap 42 during a NASCAR-mandated competition caution, Grubb called for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to help the car’s handling.

When the race restarted, Stewart told Grubb that his car was still tight, and with only eight laps of caution in the first 100 laps, Stewart was close to going one lap down to the leaders as the race neared the 110-mile mark. That turned out to be just the beginning of his problems.

Stewart pitted on lap 109 for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment, but unfortunately, the fuel never found its way into Stewart’s Chevrolet.

For 2011, NASCAR introduced a self-ventilating fuel can, which not only dumps fuel into the car, but also catches the overflow fuel when the tank is full. It’s a complicated system that every once in awhile still presents a challenge to race teams.

Such was the case for the No. 14 team at Dover, as the can of gas never connected with the fuel hook-up on Stewart’s machine. That meant no gas went in the car and Stewart had to return to pit road on lap 116 to fill the tank. The miscue put Stewart three laps down and in 35th place.

From there, Stewart battled an evil racecar and ended up six laps behind the leaders in 29th when the checkered flag mercifully waved.

Stewart’s SHR teammate, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala, fared slightly better, finishing 21st.

Matt Kenseth won the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks to score his 20th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Dover.

Mark Martin finished 2.122 seconds behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Marcos Ambrose, Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were six caution periods for 28 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish.

With round 11 of 36 complete, Newman dropped from sixth to seventh in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He now has 340 points and is 76 markers behind series leader Edwards. Stewart dropped three positions to 10th in the standings. He has 328 points and is 88 points back of Edwards.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the May 21 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The non-point-paying event begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by SPEED beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m. (SPEED’s “RaceDay” will begin at 4 p.m.)