Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Newman Fights To 12th-Place Finish at Indianapolis
Haas Automation Driver Rallies From Tough Start To Score 12th Top-15 of Season
Ryan Newman overcame nearly 100-degree temperatures and tough track conditions on Sunday to score a respectable 12th-place finish in the 18th running of the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) spent much of the 160-lap race trying to find clean air so his car would handle better. His efforts in that regard were made harder as he started in the middle of the field in 23rd.
Newman spent much of the race between the 17th and 23rd positions as he and crew chief Tony Gibson attempted to work on the car’s handling via track bar, wedge and tire pressure adjustments. But while the car gradually became better throughout the day, track position was still incredibly vital. And while Newman’s car was fast and handling well, he found it difficult to pass other cars as the air coming off their respective machines would make Newman’s car unstable – a trait all the drivers in Sunday’s race dealt with at one point or another.
Knowing a race victory was going to be extremely difficult to obtain as the laps wound down, Gibson and Newman decided to score the best finish they could. With 29 laps remaining, Newman headed to pit road for three seconds worth of fuel, ensuring that his Haas Automation Chevrolet could make it to the finish.
Other drivers opted to gamble on fuel, and while some ran out and others had to slow way down to conserve, Newman could operate at full strength. With 10 laps to go he cracked the top-20, and with five laps remaining Newman was up to 15th before crossing the line in 12th at the conclusion of the 400-mile race.
“When you get back in traffic, it’s tough,” said Newman, who scored his 12th top-15 finish of the season. “We never could get to the front and get clean air. We rallied to finish 12th and that will help us in the points, but I wish we could’ve had a better day with our Haas Automation Chevrolet.”
“It’s hard to adjust on a car when you’re in the middle of traffic like that,” said Gibson. “There’s no air back there. You can over-adjust way too easy, so we just tried to tinker with it. We just knew we were sucking that air and there wasn’t much we could do. The balance was going to change. We just did damage control today. We just tried to finish the best we could without killing ourselves in the points and it worked out well. The No. 14 (Tony Stewart) finished ahead of us and everybody else that we needed to outrun, we did today. That’s what we’ve got to do right now. We’ve got that win, so now we’ve got to just manage our points.”
Stewart, Newman’s SHR teammate and driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala, finished sixth to score his ninth top-10 finish at Indianapolis and his eighth of the season.
Paul Menard won the 18th annual Brickyard 400 to notch his first career Sprint Cup victory, and in doing so, became the fourth first-time winner of 2011, joining Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith and David Ragan.
Jeff Gordon finished .725 of a second behind Menard in the runner-up spot, while Smith, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five. Stewart, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 22 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish.
With round 20 of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR duo in the championship point standings. He remained eighth and now has 618 points, 64 markers back of series leader Carl Edwards and 31 points ahead of 11th-place Denny Hamlin. Stewart gained two spots to climb to ninth. He now has 609 points, which puts him 73 points behind Edwards while giving him a 22-point cushion over Hamlin.