Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was in contention not only to win the Federated Auto Parts 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway but also to lock himself into the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field.
Newman and Martin Truex Jr. tied for the second wild card with one race victory each and the same number of points.
With the first tiebreaker being number of second-place finishes, Truex won by virtue of a having one, earned in April at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, to Newman’s zero.
“We didn’t expect to make up for everything that we didn’t get in the first 25 races in the last race, but we were in position,” Newman said. “We were in a position to take that second wild card with two wins. It’s disappointing. But we’ll go on.
The Quicken Loans Chevrolet was good, no doubt. Matt (Borland, crew chief) and the guys did a good job making it fast. In the end, I’m proud of the guys. We came from nowhere this year to be in this position. If it wasn’t for that last caution, we would be in the Chase.”
Newman started 24th in the 43-car field, and despite battling a tight-handling racecar was able to hold his position until he came to pit road for a green-flag stop on lap 96. Crew chief Matt Borland called for a track bar adjustment when 2003 Richmond winner Newman came to the attention of the Quicken Loans crew.
Newman continued to struggle with a combination of an ill-handling racecar and a lack of track position but was able to shave time from his deficit to the race leader.
Borland continued to call for minor adjustments each time Newman hit pit road, which allowed him to continue advancing toward the front of the field.
As the laps came to a close, Newman raced his way to the front of the field on lap 391. When Clint Bowyer spun to bring out the caution flag on lap 394, Newman led the field to pit road for the final stops of the night. A slow stop by the No. 39 team saw Newman drop from first to fifth, but Quicken Loans driver Newman gained two positions over the final three laps to finish third.
“We came down pit road first,” Newman said. “Carl (Edwards) came off pit road second. We should have been at least second at that point. We didn’t do our job on pit road. Four tires won the race. We were the first car to be in position on four tires, and we didn’t get the job done.
We did everything we needed to up until the last caution. I’m not sure exactly what unfolded there. We still had the opportunity to win it on pit road, and we didn’t. Coming from fifth to third in a couple laps is not bad. But we had to win, so it’s disappointing.”
Newman’s SHR teammate Mark Martin, interim driver of SHR’s No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS as he subs for the injured Tony Stewart, finished ninth. It was Martin’s 31st top-10 in 56 career Sprint Cup starts at the .75-mile oval.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 30th in her 36th career Sprint Cup start and her second at Richmond. Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 20 spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 10th for his first career top-10.
Carl Edwards won the Federated Auto Parts 400 to score his 21st career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his first at Richmond.
Kurt Busch finished .668 of a second behind Edwards in the runner-up spot, while Newman, Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard rounded out the top-five. Matt Kenseth, Truex, Jeff Gordon, Martin and Stenhouse comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 29 laps, with three drivers failing to finish the 400-lap race.
Richmond marked the last race of the regular season, as the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins.
The top-10 drivers in points are eligible to compete in the Chase, along with two wild-card drivers – Kasey Kahne and Truex – who were admitted to the Chase field by having the most wins among the drivers who were between 11th and 20th in the standings. NASCAR recalibrated the points for the 12 drivers as soon as the Richmond race was over, with each driver getting 2,000 points.
With the exception of wild-card entrants Kahne and Truex, drivers also received three bonus points for each of their respective wins during the 26-race regular season. For drivers starting the Chase with identical point totals, their seed was determined by the traditional tiebreaker of best finishes beyond race victories.