Sunday was not only a bad day for Tony Stewart, it was a bad day for the entire Stewart-Haas Racing team.
The squad went into the 21st Brickyard 400 with high hopes after qualifying all four cars in the top 14 on Saturday, including pole-sitter Kevin Harvick. But none of the four came close to matching their qualifying spots in Sunday’s race.
Harvick, who set a track record in qualifying, had the best showing of the Stewart-Haas drivers with an eighth-place finish.
“We started off bad really from the first lap,” Harvick said. “We were just way too tight as we went through the day, and we never could make it better. Just made it worse most of the day.”
Stewart, a Columbus native, battled handling problems, started sixth and finished 17th. Kurt Bush started seventh and finished 28th.
Danica Patrick qualified 14th on Saturday. She was in 13th after 60 laps Sunday but suffered a broken rear gear while exiting the pit on Lap 69 and finished 42nd.
“We looked at everything, and it looked like the launch was fine,” Patrick said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s too bad these things never happen when you’re having a bad day. We were having a good day.
“It’s disappointing, and the GoDaddy guys built me a really good car,” she said. “Hendrick gave me great horsepower. We were the fastest car out there at times. We qualified better and had a good car for the race. It just didn’t end the way we wanted it to.”
n Larson the top rookie
Kyle Larson finished as the top rookie at the Brickyard, taking seventh. Larson raced sprint cars for Keith Kunz and Pete Willoughby at Columbus-based Keith Kunz Motorsports before taking on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit.
“I think I finished probably better than I had hoped, so seventh was good for us,” Larson said. “I thought we were a little bit better than that. We just had to restart on the outside that last time, and that kind of hurt us a little bit.
“Restarts were pretty intense for a couple of laps, and after you get strung out, it’s so hard to pass. You have to make sure you hit your marks really well to get by guys, and it’s tough. It makes it frustrating, but it’s Indy, and we all understand it coming into here, so we know to be a little bit more calm.”
Gordon wins No. 5
Jeff Gordon’s record fifth Brickyard 400 win came exactly 20 years after his first and 10 years after his most recent. He captured the inaugural race in 1994 and added victories in 1998, 2001 and 2004.
“You never know when your next win’s going to come,” Gordon said. “We’ve been close a number of times to getting No. 5, but every time I come here to Indianapolis, I feel like we have a shot at winning. It’s just a special place, and I love racing here.”
Gordon won by 2.325 seconds over runner-up Kyle Busch.
NASCAR to inspect plates
Denny Hamlin took third Sunday, but that finish may be in jeopardy.
NASCAR announced after the race that it will take a closer look at the rear firewall block-off plates on Hamlin’s car. The plates will be taken back to the R&D Center for further inspection.
Sunday’s race took 2 hours, 39 minutes, 41 seconds to complete and had an average speed of 150.297 mph. There were four cautions for 16 laps.