DOVER, Del. — His championship hopes over, Tony Stewart walked away into the crowd.
Gone also were his title hopes. Although a 13th-place finish was his best result in the last seven races, it wasn’t good enough to keep his title hopes alive. Stewart was one of four drivers eliminated from Chase contention Sunday at Dover International Speedway. Also failing to advance were Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Chris Buescher.
Still, when Stewart is enshrined into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Hall of Fame it will be as a three-time champion.
But hope remained when the day began of a fourth title.
“We will give 110 percent this whole day and take whatever it gives us,’’ Stewart told his team on the radio before the start of the Citizen Soldier 400. “I’ll tell you one thing, this one race, whatever happens, is not going to define the season this team has. Win, lose or draw, we keep our heads up.’’
That wasn’t enough. He was a driver in a car that lacked the speed and handling to run with the leaders. Cautions helped him stay on the lead lap past halfway but couldn’t stop the inevitable. He eventually was put a lap down on Lap 267 of the 400-lap race.
“I’m pretty excited about our day,’’ Stewart said as he walked away from his car. “We were much better than we were yesterday. Really proud of our team. We kept making it better all day. That is good as we had.”
That’s all he had to say.