Yes, that's how poor the beginning of 2015 has been for the three-time champion. Already in the worst three-race stretch of his career entering Sunday's race (four if you count a last-place finish in the final race of 2014), Stewart extended the run of bad finishes to four with two separate crashes at Phoenix.
The first happened after he battled up to the top 10. After starting 17th, Stewart ran most of the first half of the race in the back-end of the top 20. But as his team kept adjusting on the car it kept getting better and Stewart moved into 10th place.
He was battling for the position with Justin Allgaier on lap 237 when he drifted up the track and into Allgaier. Stewart's car spun around and he slammed into the wall.
Stewart drove to the pits for repairs but lost numerous laps. After returning to the track, he blew a tire exiting turn four and slammed into the frontstretch wall, collecting Sam Hornish Jr. on lap 290.
After his car was towed to the garage, Stewart was officially out of the race. He finished 39th.
Busch finished fifth, collecting 39 points. After finishes of 42nd, 30th, 33rd and now 39th, Stewart has 32 points in 2015. Busch is 32nd in the points standings. Stewart is 36th.
In fact, Stewart has the fewest points of any driver who has competed in all four Sprint Cup Series races in 2015. Landon Cassill, the first driver to start the season with back-to-back last-place finishes since 1949 is running for Xfinity Series points this season. But if he was running for Sprint Cup points, he'd have 33 points, or one more than Stewart does.
Is all hope lost for 2015 already for Stewart? Of course not. Busch and race-winner Kevin Harvick showed that Stewart-Haas Racing has speed. And Stewart did have speed on Sunday before he lost the car underneath Allgaier, the second time he's had a car hit the wall in a similar scenario in 2015.
Because of the quality of equipment Stewart-Haas has, Stewart is a near-lock for the top 30 in the points standings. And he just needs a win to make the Chase. While it seems like a big "just," we're not ready to count Stewart out just yet.
But we didn't expect a start to 2015 like this either.
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