NASCAR Notes: Crash, mechanical issue doom Tony Stewart at Dover

 

Tony Stewart at the NASCAR “AAA 400 Drive for Autism” at Dover Downs International Speedway on Sunday. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

Tony Stewart at the NASCAR “AAA 400 Drive for Autism” at Dover Downs International Speedway on Sunday. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

DOVER — Tony Stewart’s weekend in Dover didn’t get off to a very good start.

In Friday morning’s first Sprint Cup practice session, he had the misfortune of being behind Danica Patrick when she wrecked.

That sent Stewart’s car into the inside wall.

Things weren’t any better for the veteran driver on Sunday when a mechanical problem cut short a promising run in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway.

Stewart completed only 342 laps, finishing 34th in the Sprint Cup race.

He said the culprit was a trackbar on his car. It punctured the oil tank, leaving behind a slick trail of oil as he headed for the garage.

“The back of the car flops back and forth, I don’t know what more there is to say about that,” said Stewart. “It just broke. The car was acting weird for the last 80 to 100 laps. I’m sure it was already starting to break and it finally just broke the rest of the way.”

Stewart, who announced that this is his final Sprint Cup season, has driven in only four events so far. He sits only 37th in the season points standings.

Trouble for Harvick

For the first quarter of the race, this looked to be the Kevin Harvick show.

Harvick dominated the early going, leading a race-high 117 laps. But once he was shuffled out of the lead, he had a hard time getting back up front.

Then he was caught up in the 18-car wreck which took out most of the field. His crew was able to repair the car enough to finish 15th.

“We had a good car,” his crew chief Rodney Childress said. “We had driven from 20th back to fourth there before the caution. You had a couple of guys stay out and caused a big mess on the restart and got tore up. The guys did good on pit road to keep it out there and keep it going and at least get a decent finish out of it.”

Rookie places 8th

Ryan Blaney’s eighth-place finish was his third straight top-10 finish and fifth of the season.

The 22-year-old rookie will take that finish after starting 18th in the race. It was his first Sprint Cup start on the Monster Mile.

“It was a long day,” he said. “We got better throughout the day.”

“It got wild there for a while and there were a couple big wrecks,” Blaney added. “We missed the big one. I don’t know how we missed it but somehow we did. It was definitely a strange day and definitely a strange first Dover Cup race for me.”

Blaney is now 15th in the Sprint Cup points standings.

Keselowski rallies

Brad Keselowski went from racing for the lead to sitting on pit road as his crew struggled to replace his right-front fender.

All told, Keselowski somehow ended up sixth on Sunday. Keselowski had led 49 laps, but dropped to the tail-end of the lead lap after he was caught up in a minor accident.

“There was a lot of chaos and we ran really well,” Keselowski said. “Unfortunately we got caught up running second and leading a lot of laps and tore up the car. … It knocked a lot of speed out of our Wurth Ford Fusion but we were still very competitive. I am proud of my guys to recover to finish sixth at the end.”

Hiccup for Dillon

Austin Dillon’s strong start to the season suffered a slight hiccup at the Monster Mile.

On Lap 184, Dillon’s car slammed into the outside retaining wall. It was obvious there was some kind of mechanical failure.

“I think it was the brakes,” Dillon said. “I was complaining about them before that, having to pump them up. I am just frustrated. Had the same issue at Bristol and we come here and we have another issue with the brakes. I’m frustrated, but we had a good car. Our Chevrolet was fast and we had good shot of running top 10, top five depending on track position.”

Dillon headed to the garage before returning to the track to make some laps with his repaired race car. He had to settle for a 33rd-place finish.

Plenty of passing

There were over 1,000 green-flag passes in Sunday’s race, the most in the last three Dover races. That also included 15 passes for the lead, the most here since 2013.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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