Newman Rallies To Score Top-10 Finish at Martinsville
Haas Automation Driver Leads Twice For 41 Laps; Recovers from Late Spin
Ryan Newman recovered from a late spin and finished a solid 10th in Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
It was Newman’s 16th top-10 of 2011 and his 10th top-10 finish in 20 career Sprint Cup Series starts at Martinsville.
But it wasn’t easy for the driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
Newman started 12th, was in the top-10 for much of the first 50 laps of the race and was in sixth place when the caution came out on lap 66 for an accident involving David Reutimann. While the five cars ahead of Newman headed to pit road, Newman and crew chief Tony Gibson opted to stay out and, thus, Newman inherited the lead.
He held the point from laps 69 to 107, a total of 39 laps, before pitting for four tires and fuel on lap 108. From there, Newman led once more from laps 154-155, but the handling on his Haas Automation Chevrolet became tight and Newman found himself outside the top-10 as the race neared the midway point.
Newman battled the ill-handling car for the remainder of the race and was 14th with 25 laps remaining when his car made contact with Kurt Busch’s machine in turn two, the result of which sent Newman’s car spinning.
After a pit stop for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment, Newman restarted 20th with 22 laps to go. With great determination, Newman drove up to 14th by lap 490 and then gained four spots throughout the final 10 laps to score a hard-earned top-10 result.
“We got spun there,” Gibson said. “We had fresh tires and got spun out there and had to go to the back and drove back up to the top-10. I don’t know what else you can do. We led laps. It’s just frustrating. I am proud we came back and finished 10th, but it isn’t what we wanted. We’ll just take it and go on.”
Newman’s SHR teammate, Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala, led three times for 14 laps and took the lead from five-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson on a restart three laps from the finish en route to winning the TUMS Fast Relief 500.
It was Stewart’s third win and 16th top-10 result of 2011, his third win and 14th top-10 in 26 career Sprint Cup starts at the .526-mile Martinsville oval, and his 42nd win in 461 career Sprint Cup races.
This was the fourth Sprint Cup victory for SHR in 2011, as Newman won in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. SHR now has 11 Sprint Cup victories since its inception in 2009.
Stewart finished .170 of a second ahead of runner-up Johnson, while Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five. Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards and Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 18 caution periods for 108 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.
Stewart and Newman are both in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup and came into Martinsville fourth and 12th, respectively, in the Chase standings. Stewart was 19 points behind Chase leader Edwards while Newman was 88 points out of the top spot. Stewart leaves Martinsville second in points, eight markers behind series leader Edwards. Newman remained 12th in the standings and is now 89 points out of first.