Bristol, Tenn. • There is no panic at Stewart-Haas Racing despite a sub-par start to the season that is tarnishing Tony Stewart’s comeback from a broken leg.
Stewart needed a provisional to make Sunday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he’s scheduled to start 37th after an awful qualifying session for the four-car organization. Danica Patrick, who wrecked three minutes into Friday’s first practice, was the last car to qualify on speed at 36th. Kevin Harvick, the lone bright spot for the organization this season, qualified 27th, and Kurt Busch had the best effort for SHR at 13th.
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It’s just been that kind of start for SHR, which is trying to figure out how to get all its cars running equally just months after replacing Ryan Newman with Harvick and adding Busch to become a four-car organization.
"Everywhere we go, we’ve got two cars that run pretty good. We haven’t gotten a weekend where everybody’s run great," vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said Saturday. "It’s hard to have four cars. I think you can get four cars running good, but it’s harder to get them to all finish good."
The most glaring problems have been with Stewart, who returned Feb. 14 after missing the final 15 races last season with a broken right leg suffered in a sprint car crash at Iowa. His first time back in his No. 14 Chevrolet was a day before the first exhibition race at Daytona, and the race was cut short for him when he was caught in a multi-car accident.
Engine problems ruined the Daytona 500 for him, he was a mediocre 16th at Phoenix, and Stewart struggled with an awful car at Las Vegas last week and finished 33rd.
"He hasn’t complained about his leg. His attitude, his effort, his spirits have been great," Zipadelli said. "We’re just not giving him what he’s comfortable with. We’re dragging the racetrack. It’s not little things. It’s way off. Last week was a human error. He did an amazing job driving that car. I went down in the corner and watched it and most people would have wrecked that thing. We got it home and found some mechanical . human error. Shame on us. That stuff can’t happen at this level. It certainly shouldn’t happen to that caliber of driver. We owe him a lot more than that."
In Bristol, Tenn., Kyle Busch got his 16th career win at Bristol Motor Speedway — more than any other NASCAR driver at any other track —by holding off Kyle Larson after a late restart in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.
Busch has now won three consecutive Nationwide Series races at Bristol since last March, when he and Larson also went 1-2 to the finish.
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