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Sprint Cup - Stewart New Hampshire Race Report

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Loudon, Jul. 16, 2012: It was a far cry from the domination Tony Stewart laid down last year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon when the driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet finished second and first, respectively, in the two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at the 1.058-mile oval. But Stewart’s 12th-place finish in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 on Sunday still provided yet another example of Stewart’s tenacity behind the wheel of a racecar.

Stewart started 10th in the 301-lap race and rose to eighth after just 15 laps. But that was as high as Stewart would climb on the leaderboard. His Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy quickly became a handful, with Stewart describing it as a “soapy dishrag.” The car wallowed through the corners with an overall lack of grip. Goodyear brought a new tire to New Hampshire, and Stewart and crew chief Steve Addington struggled with its nuances. What worked so well in 2011 did not work nearly as well in 2012.

“The balance of our car was never bad,” Stewart said. “It was actually pretty good. We just had no grip out there. Steve made one last change there at the end, and it definitely helped. We were finally able to make up some ground.”

After falling off the lead lap, Stewart and Addington used a caution period on lap 191 to take advantage of NASCAR’s “wave-around” rule, where any car that doesn’t pit under caution can get a lap back if every car on the lead lap does pit.

When the race restarted on lap 197, Stewart was still mired in 19th but back on the lead lap.

Stewart continued to manhandle his racecar until the team’s final pit stop on lap 235 during the race’s third and final caution period. Addington took a big swing at the car’s handling, ordering a track bar adjustment and two spring rubbers out of the right-front and left-front wheel assemblies.

The impact was noticeable, as Stewart began to rally. After starting 16th when the race restarted on lap 240, Stewart climbed all the way to 11th with less than 50 laps to go. Just ahead of him in 10th was his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate, Ryan Newman. The duo ran together until lap 260 when Jimmie Johnson passed Stewart and dropped him to 12th. Stewart, however, hung tough and held the position right through the final lap.