As the final stretch of Sunday’s Pocono 400 loomed, Tony Stewart looked like he’d be one of the contenders as the remaining laps ticked away.
Instead, he was forced to swallow a 13th-place finish after he was caught speeding on pit road during a Lap 118 caution.
The penalty sent him to the tail end of the lead lap for the Lap 123 restart, and while Stewart did well to collect a Top-15 in the end, he was still annoyed with himself over his mistake.
“It was 100 percent driver error,” he told TNT. “I don’t know how I got through the lights like I did, but I got to where I blew through all the lights and didn’t have any on the [tachometer], so I had no clue I was over though. But it was 100 percent driver error.
“I gave my guys grief last week with a sixth-place run, thought we should run in the top-three, and then I threw it away this week…I had an awesome car all day, all from Friday through Sunday. It was a great race car, just the driver screwed it up this weekend.”
Stewart’s gaffe marked the end of a tough mid-race sequence for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Shortly before the Lap 118 caution, Stewart and Harvick had been running first and second when the latter suffered a flat tire on Lap 116 and was forced to pit under green.
Harvick has won twice this season, but has had several more potential victories go by the boards due to instances of bad luck. So it went again in Pocono for “Happy,” who ultimately finished one spot behind Stewart in 14th place.
Between Harvick’s flat tire and Stewart’s penalty was Kurt Busch overshooting his pit box. However, the Outlaw was able to battle back and pick up a much-needed third-place finish.
As for SHR’s fourth driver, Danica Patrick, she suffered through a trying afternoon. On Lap 137, she was running second out of sequence when she hit the wall in Turn 2.
But she did manage to have a role in the outcome of the race – although probably not the role she desired. Race leader Brad Keselowski tried to use her lapped car to blow off a piece of debris on his own with five laps left.
Keselowski lost momentum, however, and opened the door for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to make the race-winning pass. Patrick finished 37th.