Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch were two drivers who could have and maybe should have won the race Sunday at Loudon, N.H. It didn’t happen. Tony ran out of gas and finished 26th. Kurt got in a wreck and finished 31st.
While it hurt both drivers’ Chase chances, I think it is fair to say that Loudon hurt Kurt the worst. Kurt is back outside the top 10. Now granted, it is only seven points but the glaring negative is that he still doesn’t have a win. Right now Kurt doesn’t even qualify for a Wild-Card spot.
Now on the plus side of things for the No. 78 car, and I have said this before, they really are fast every week. They have some pretty stiff competition to get by, but as we always say in racing “a fast race car can cure all ills.”
Tony is also out of the top 10, but unlike Kurt, he has that one win and so right now going into the off-weekend, Tony has the second Wild-Card spot. Martin Truex Jr. with his win at Sonoma has the first Wild-Card spot.
On what happened Sunday with Tony running out of gas, I can’t second-guess what they tried to do. The reason is I knew for 18 years as a crew chief that everyone always second-guessed the decisions I made. The reality is it was going to be tough to try and run 98 laps on a tank of fuel.
The one thing they did have going in their favor was all the cautions. All those cautions helped them save a lot of fuel and they were actually getting pretty close to making it. They definitely didn’t need that green-white-checker situation. That killed their chances because, unfortunately, he ran out on the last lap and, as mentioned earlier, finished 26th.
I just thought they might have had Tony back it way down, take a 10th-place finish and head to Indianapolis next week sitting in great shape in the points. Tony didn’t and we all saw the result of that.
We have the weekend off from NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. There will be seven races to go before the Chase field is set. I’m telling you, just go look at 11th to say 15th or 16th place. It is getting really tense for those drivers. Some might even call it scary.
As mentioned, both Tony and Martin Truex Jr. currently hold the Wild-Card spots because they are the only other drivers inside the top 20 that have a win. Things are really going to get intense if one or more of those other drivers pull off a win and puts a string of great finishes together in these last seven races.
If that happens, we all might very well be talking about the big names that didn’t make the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase just as much as we do the ones that did.