It goes without saying that 2015 was a tremendously disappointing season for three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, who finished 28th in points. That was the worst result of any of the four Stewart-Haas Racing drivers.
Stewart missed 15 races in 2013 and three more in ’14 because of incidents in dirt-track races. But prior to this season, he had never finished worse than 11th in points in any Sprint Cup season where he competed in all of the scheduled races.
NASCAR’s new-for-2015 lower-horsepower package did not suit Stewart’s driving style, and he said on several occasions that he was unable to get the feel he wanted in his No. 14 SHR Chevrolets.
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Still, there were some reasons for encouragement. Stewart had his best finish of the year in the spring Bristol race, where he ended the race in sixth place. The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Stewart’s home track, began a streak of four consecutive top-five qualifying runs, although Stewart was only able to net one top-10 finish from those races.
By late in the season, Stewart was promising significant changes at SHR for 2016. Sure enough, crew chief Chad Johnston left to join Kyle Larson at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. He will be replaced by Michael Bugarewicz, who was Kevin Harvick’s race engineer.
With Stewart already on record as saying 2016 will be his final year as a driver, he’ll be looking for a big improvement next year.