Daytona 500 winless streak goes on for Stewart
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Tony Stewart’s night ended with more Daytona heartache.
Stewart made it 0 for 16 in the Daytona 500 after another failed effort Sunday in the No. 14 Chevrolet. In 18 seasons spanning NASCAR and IndyCar, Stewart has been able to cross most everything off his to-do list. He still has one big milestone to chase in winning the Daytona 500.
Stewart was forced to pit road around the halfway point with an engine problem, then later went to the garage with fuel cell issues. He sat in the car while his crew worked on the 14 and eventually returned to the race a whopping 27 laps down.
The three-time Cup champion drove in his first Sprint Cup points race for the first time since he broke two bones in his leg in an August sprint-car crash
He does have 19th victories at Daytona in all races at the track other than the 500. He has more wins at one of NASCAR’s most famous tracks than everyone except Dale Earnhardt (34).
Earnhardt won the Daytona 500 in his 20th try. Stewart’s wait will stretch out to at least 17.
Before Speedweeks, Stewart hadn’t done much since breaking his right leg Aug. 5 in a sprint car accident. The broken tibia and fibula caused Stewart to miss the final 15 races of last season. He had two surgeries for the breaks, then a third to treat an infection. He was flat on his back, confined to the first-floor bedroom of his longtime business manager’s house, where he was forced to lay with his leg elevated above his heart.
He started the Daytona 500 in the back because of an unapproved engine change. He was running about 25th when he started reporting engine issues.
“It acts like it’s just out of fuel, and every lap it gets worse and worse and worse,” Stewart said. “It’s taking longer to recover, too.”
Stewart thought the problem was resolved. Instead, he drove the 14 straight to the garage about 35 laps later.
He was collected in an early crash last season and finished 41st.
But he’s lost some close calls, too. He was passed by Ryan Newman on the last lap in 2008, didn’t get the push he needed on the final restart when Trevor Bayne won in 2011 and played second-fiddle to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2004.
He wasn’t the only driver at Stewart-Haas Racing with a short night on the track after a 6-plus hour rain delay. Danica Patrick, who led Daytona 500 laps for the second straight year, slammed nose first into the concrete in a 13-car accident late in the race. Patrick was hit by, of all cars, Aric Almirola’s No. 43. Richard Petty made the number famous and he took a jab at Patrick before Daytona, saying she couldn’t win a race unless all the other drivers stayed home. She wouldn’t win this one — and neither would The King’s driver.
“It was the best car that I had all Speedweeks,” Patrick said. “It seemed like we could catch whoever and it seemed like we could move around, make lanes and just move around and move forward at the end of the day. I felt like everything was going pretty well, so it’s just upsetting you know. It’s just the culmination of sitting around all day.”