Newman Hooks Eighth-Place Finish at Bristol
Bass Pro Shops/Realtree Driver Scores 12th Top-10 Finish of 2011
Ryan Newman continued his march toward securing a spot in the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by scoring a solid eighth-place finish in Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
It was Newman’s 12th top-10 finish in 20 career starts at Bristol and his 12th top-10 result of 2010.
More importantly, the driver of the No. 39 Bass Pro Shops/Realtree Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), put more distance between himself and those drivers on the outside of the top-10 in points. He entered the race seventh in the standings with a 55-point cushion between himself and 11th-place Clint Bowyer, and he exits Bristol still seventh but with a 77-marker lead over the new occupant of 11th, Brad Keselowski, who won the Irwin Tools Night Race.
Following the conclusion of the Sept. 10 Sprint Cup race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, the Chase field will be set with the top-10 drivers in the standings qualifying for the Chase. Spots 11 and 12 in the Chase will be occupied by drivers with the most wins this season who are between 11th and 20th in the standings.
“It was a good points day for us, looking at the big picture,” Newman said. “It is going to take a better performance than that in those last 10 races to be a champion, but I feel like we have something to work with, for sure.”
During Friday qualifying, Newman captured his 48th career Sprint Cup pole, his second of the season and his third at Bristol. With his pole, he remained 10th on the all-time pole-winners list but is now just one pole behind Bobby Isaac, who occupies the ninth spot.
Newman jumped to the lead from the pole position and led the first four laps around the .533-mile oval before being passed by four-time champion Jeff Gordon on lap five. From there, Newman never held the point again but remained in the top-15 for the entire 500-lap race.
The critical moment of the night came on lap 415, when Newman pitted under caution while in 14th place. Crew chief Tony Gibson made the call for two tires and fuel and sent Newman on his way, gaining him 11 spots and putting Newman in third place for the restart.
After the green flag flew on lap 420, other drivers with four fresh tires were able to work their way around Newman in the final 80 laps, but he hung on for a solid eighth-place result.
“It was a good call there at the end to put two tires on,” Newman said. “We just weren’t as good as we should have been, car-wise, all night. We had about a sixth- to 10th-place car depending on what run it was and we finished eighth. I’m proud of the guys. I have to thank Bass Pro Shops and Realtree for jumping on board with our Chevrolet.”
Newman’s SHR teammate, Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished 28th. Stewart remains 10th in the Sprint Cup Series standings with 710 points, which puts him 120 points behind series leader Kyle Busch while giving him a 21-point cushion over Keselowski.