By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Entering Sunday’s Bojangles Southern 500, Tony Stewart had yet to win at the historic Darlington Raceway. As part of the Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway, Tony Stewart and his Stewart-Haas Racing team unveiled a Bobby Allison-inspired Coca-Cola Chervolet SS paint scheme, which Stewart would run at Darlington.
All track activity on Friday was cancelled due to severe weather. As a result, qualifying on Saturday was scrapped in favor of practice. With the starting grid set by points, Stewart lined up 17th on Sunday. Stewart was 20th and 18th fastest in the two practice sessions.
The race started out promising for Stewart. Stewart stayed just inside the top 20 during the first 100 laps, moving up as high as 14th.
After the second caution on lap 115 for an accident involving Brian Scott, Stewart began to move forward. By lap 120, Stewart had moved up to the 11th position. 40 laps later, Stewart finally broke into the top 10, where he stalled out.
It seemed as if the rest of the race would be smooth sailing for Stewart, until lap 205. Stewart was navigating his way through lap traffic when he caught Scott. Stewart got loose, and slid down the track off of turn two.
As the pair moved further down the backstretch, Stewart turned back up the track. Stewart made contact with the left rear of Scott’s Twister Tea Ford Fusion, hooking Scott. Scott’s Ford spun into the inside wall, ending his day.
A disappointed Brian Scott spoke about the incident,
“I was trying to let those guys go that had newer, fresher tires. I was trying to let Tony (Stewart) go there and I think he got inside of me and got loose there. I was pointing him to the inside to let him go. Apparently he got mad at me.”
Under the ensuing caution, NASCAR officials requested that Stewart and his crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz, to report to the NASCAR hauler following the conclusion of the race.
Meanwhile for Stewart, his day started to slide down hill. Stewart slipped out of the top 10.
By lap 280, Stewart had fallen to 19th on the running order. Stewart was able to move up to 17th just 20 laps later.
Unfortunately for Stewart, his race would not last much longer. On lap 317, Stewart’s car began billowing smoke. Stewart brought his car down pit road and headed straight for the garage with his car overheating.
A tired and relieved Stewart explained exactly what caused his early exit,
“Yeah, overheating was the first part of it, and it finally grenaded. It was 375 degrees on water temperature. There’s a screen in there that keeps all the trash from getting into the radiator and it got separated from its mount, so all the trash was getting underneath it and going up inside the radiator and it just kept blocking it until we finally lost the motor.”
When Stewart was asked about his incident with Scott, Stewart answered short and simply, “He wrecked.”
Stewart now looks forward to Richmond International Raceway and the final race before the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase.