News & Media

Stewart experiences Texas-sized disappointment

April 16, 2012, David Caraviello,

Three-time champion finishes 24th after wrecking his primary car in practice

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Tony Stewart won the most recent Sprint Cup event at Texas Motor Speedway, using that victory in the Lone Star State to propel him to another title at NASCAR's highest level. But Saturday's return to the Fort Worth facility showed that even a three-time champion sometimes can have an off night.

In a race dominated by long green-flag runs -- including a marathon 233-lap surge to the finish -- Stewart struggled and finished an uncharacteristic 24th, two laps down to winner Greg Biffle. It was a jarring effort from a driver who had won five of the 10 Chase races en route to last year's championship and was off to perhaps his best start to a season with a pair of victories already this year.

But Saturday night, it wasn't to be. The result was Stewart's worst finish since a 25th-place result at Dover in the third Chase race of 2011.

"We just couldn't get the handle on this thing," he said. "We started off really loose and then we sort of went the other way, and I needed to be freed up. We chased it all night. We'll go back to the shop, tear it apart and see what the deal is."

For Stewart, it was a worst-case scenario -- long green-flag runs that left slower cars helpless, and a primary car parked in the transporter storage bay after being involved in a Friday practice accident. Stewart banged the wall four minutes into the session and moved to the backup, which had led 173 laps en route to winning the event at Texas last season. The plan was to make the car better on pit stops, but a race with two cautions and a fast pace set by the leaders left the No. 14 at the mercy of the front of the field.

Even so, crew chief Steve Addington had hoped for more.

"He apologized for getting us behind and wrecking the car, and that's crazy. We win as a team, we lose as a team," Addington said. "We make mistakes, and he's going to make mistakes. ... We're a good enough race team that we should be able to drag a car off the trailer and get it closer than what we had tonight."