Tony Stewart turned some fast laps during the Kentucky 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. Unfortunately, the majority of them came after a lengthy stay in the garage area.
Ignition problems just 25 laps into the 267-lap race kept Stewart idle for 36 laps as his team replaced the throttle body while his counterparts lapped the 1.5-mile oval at speed. Stewart avoided a dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish) by returning to the race and using it as a test session, but there was still a sting to his 32nd-place finish.
Stewart, the driver of No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), came into Kentucky riding a string of top-three finishes, the last two of which were second-place runs at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and the road course in Sonoma, Calif. Another strong finish was expected at Kentucky, despite struggles in two practice sessions Friday. The car Stewart was driving at Kentucky was the same chassis that won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier this season and last fall at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
The car showed excellent speed during the race at Kentucky once it returned to the track after repairs, turning laps as quickly as the leaders. But it went unnoticed since Stewart was too many laps down to make any headway.
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet for SHR, had an equally disappointing outing at Kentucky. He finished 34th after his engine blew on lap 210, which sent him spinning into the turn two wall. Newman was unhurt in the accident, but he incurred his second DNF of the season.
Brad Keselowski won the Kentucky 400 to score his seventh career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Kentucky.
Kasey Kahne finished 4.399 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot, while Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top-five. Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., A.J. Allmendinger and Kyle Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were four caution periods for 24 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish.
With round 17 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR duo in the championship point standings. He dropped four spots to ninth and has 545 points, 88 back of series leader Kenseth and eight points ahead of 10th-place Keselowski with a 42-point advantage over 11th-place Carl Edwards. Newman fell to 15th and has 463 points, which puts him 170 points behind Kenseth and 74 behind Keselowski.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Coke Zero 400 on Saturday, July 7 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at 6:30 p.m.