After a six-hour and 22-minute rain delay subdued the momentum of the 56th Daytona 500, a fuel pressure issue subdued Tony Stewart’s run in the season-opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. He finished 35th.
The problem reared its head on lap 94 when Stewart radioed to crew chief Chad Johnston that his fuel gauge was “jumping all around” and that his engine “laid down” on exit of the track’s corners. Stewart tried to wait the problem out until a caution appeared, but the problem worsened and Stewart was forced to pit under green on lap 101 of the 200-lap race.
Johnston and Co. opened the trunk where the fuel cell and associated electronics are located. Stewart shut off his racecar, switched batteries and then restarted his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS. With no indications of a problem, Stewart headed back onto the racetrack where on lap 105 he said, “So far, so good.”
A moment later, however, Stewart said he spoke too soon. The problem remained. Stewart returned to pit road on lap 117 and didn’t return to the track until lap 128. The problem persisted and, finally, Stewart was forced to bring his car to the garage with 70 laps remaining.
There, the team replaced the fuel cell and all its electronic pieces. It was an intensive effort that took time, with Stewart pulling out of the garage on lap 146.
While many laps down, the problem was solved. Stewart logged laps and took advantage of the attrition of others, rising from 42nd when he made his first unscheduled pit stop to finishing 35th when the checkered flag waved.
It was a disappointing outing for Stewart, with the only silver lining being that his Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet was in one piece when the race ended. The same could not be said for two of his three Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammates.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS for SHR, proved strong and ran with the leaders. But a last-lap crash as the field came to the checkered flag collected Harvick and left him 13th in the final rundown.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet for SHR, was involved in a multi-car accident on lap 145 that ended her race. She finished 40th.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, had a strong race, but a late-race spin that did not prompt the caution flag to be waved left Busch a lap down. He finished 21st.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., won the Daytona 500 to score his 20th career Sprint Cup victory and second in the Daytona 500. His previous win in the Great American Race came in 2004. Denny Hamlin finished behind Earnhardt in the runner-up spot as the race ended under caution. Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five, while Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Greg Biffle, Austin Dillon and Casey Mearscomprised the remainder of the top-10.