Tony Stewart didn't have the fastest or most pristine car on Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, but as the laps wound down he and crew chief Darian Grubb had the best strategy.
After fighting back from damage sustained in a Lap 10 incident on pit road with Dave Blaney, Stewart and Grubb topped the car off with fuel when a caution flew three laps after the team got the Lucky Dog on Lap 213. They were banking that the race would go green to the finish and that they would only have to make one stop while the rest of the field would have to pit twice.
That strategy worked to perfection except for one thing: Stewart sped entering pit road on that final pit stop. That meant a pass-through penalty and all of the track position that Stewart would have gained on the field was gone. Instead of leading by a comfortable margin after Matt Kenseth and the rest of the leaders made their final pit stops, Stewart was in third.
Therefore, Stewart couldn't save fuel as he tried to hold off Carl Edwards for third and that proved to be costly, as Smoke ran out of gas in Turn 3 of the final lap and ended up 12th – the last car on the lead lap.
"Sorry guys, I [screwed] us again," a dejected Stewart said over the radio after the race.
It's not the first time a pit road penalty has cost Stewart a win this season. In Las Vegas, Stewart had the field covered but was penalized for running over an air hose leaving his pit box. That cost Stewart valuable track position and he ended up finishing second. At Martinsville last weekend, Stewart was penalized for changing lanes on a restart before the start/finish line, and wound up a lowly 34th. He now leaves Texas 10th in the points, 43 behind Edwards.
- Tony Stewart