NEWMAN BATTLES BACK TO FINISH 17TH IN WHIRLWIND FINISH Tornados Driver Boldly Gains 12 Spots in Last Two Laps at Atlanta Ryan Newman battled through handling and tire issues to score a hard-fought 17th-place finish in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500...
NEWMAN BATTLES BACK TO FINISH 17TH IN WHIRLWIND FINISH
Tornados Driver Boldly Gains 12 Spots in Last Two Laps at Atlanta
Ryan Newman battled through handling and tire issues to score a hard-fought 17th-place finish in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The driver of the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) lost two laps about midway through the event when he made an unscheduled pit stop for a shredded right-front tire. Despite the issue, Newman was able to make calculated gambles to pick up 12 spots in the closing laps of the race, which ended in a green-white-checkered finish.
"Man, we could not catch a break until the very end there," said Newman, whose top-20 result was his best four races into the 2010 Sprint Cup season. "But either way it was a hard-fought 17th-place finish for the Tornados Chevrolet. It looked like we were going to be 31st there for a long time and to get that break there at the end was really nice. We've just got to work a little bit more on it, but I have to say the guys did a great job on pit road today. We were really improved there."
Newman qualified seventh for Sunday's race but had to start from the rear of the field after making an engine change prior to the event. NASCAR rules state that if an engine change is made prior to the race, the car for which the change is made must drop to the rear of the field.
With the drop of the green flag, Newman didn't waste any time as he tried to make up the lost ground. By lap 30, he had already moved into 15th. He told crew chief Tony Gibson that the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet was just a little too loose, especially off of turn two.
When the caution flag waved at lap 34, Newman pitted in hopes of helping his loose-handling racecar. The Tornados pit crew changed four tires, added fuel and made a track bar adjustment. A quick pit stop put Newman back on track in 14th-place. Although he was still picking up spots and had moved into 12th-place by lap 50, Newman told his team that his Chevy was still a little too free exiting the turns.
A caution on lap 80 afforded Newman's crew the opportunity to improve his car's handling. The pit crew made track bar and wedge adjustments and changed four tires and added fuel on the stop. Following the trip to pit road, the team noticed that the right-front tire was blistered and told Newman that tire wear was something that they would need to collectively watch closely over the course of the race.
Unfortunately, the chassis adjustments hurt Newman's forward bite as the car was still too loose off the corners and tight in the center. Newman began sliding back and fell to 22nd when the caution flag waved again. The crew again made a series of wedge and air pressure adjustments to try and improve the handling of the Tornados Chevy.
By lap 150, Newman was in 24th and he told his crew that the adjustments had over-tightened his racecar and that he could not drive it through the center of the turns the way he needed to. The team began making a plan for the next stop, but Newman radioed that he had a tire issue and had to pit immediately.
The unscheduled pit stop came on lap 153 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Newman's right-front tire was shredded when the crew removed it from the car. He returned to the track in 30th-place, two laps down to the leaders.
As soon as Newman returned to the 1.54-mile oval, an untimely caution came at lap 157. Newman elected to stay out on the track since he had just pitted. The decision to stay out enabled Newman to gain back one of the lost laps, but he was still mired deep in the field. Over the next 130 laps, Newman's team made a variety of tire pressure adjustments in hopes of helping the car's handling. The team also made a series of strategy calls regarding when to stay out and when to pit in hopes of regaining their lost laps and making a run at the leaders.
However, the effort was thwarted when the No. 48 Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson made contact with Newman's No. 39 machine as the two came off turn four on lap 285. Newman had to pit for a flat tire and to repair his left-front fender damage. For the second time during the race, Newman returned to the track and was greeted by another untimely caution which put him in 32nd, three laps down to the leaders.
Again, Newman stayed out while the race ran under caution and regained one of his laps. The team opted to roll the dice, and thanks to caution flags, Newman was able to get back on the lead lap before the final restart of the race at lap 339. Newman took the green flag in 29th and was able to pick up 12 spots over the final two laps to claim the 17th spot.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished 13th.
Stewart continues to lead the SHR driver lineup in the championship point race, as his top-15 finish bumped him three spots to eighth in the Sprint Cup point standings with 510 points, 134 markers behind series leader Kevin Harvick. Newman moved up three spots to 29th in the standings with 337 points, 307 markers behind Harvick.
Kurt Busch won the Kobalt Tools 500 to score his 21st career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his third at Atlanta.
Matt Kenseth finished .482 of a second behind Busch, while Juan Pablo Montoya, Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard rounded out the top-five. A.J. Allmendinger, Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle, Harvick and Scott Speed comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 11 caution periods for 53 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 341-lap race, which was extended 16 laps past its scheduled distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.
The Sprint Cup Series takes a rare weekend off before heading to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for the March 21 Food City 500.