Newman Finishes Hard-Earned 16th at Texas
Quicken Loans Carrier Classic Driver Rallies Back from Two Laps Down
Ryan Newman recovered from a loose wheel and two laps down to finish a respectable 16th in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
After starting 24th in the No. 39 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Newman began working his way toward the front of the field while informing crew chief Tony Gibson that his car was a bit loose.
With no caution periods early in the race, Newman headed to pit road for a green-flag pit stop on lap 45, when the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic crew changed four tires, added fuel and made a chassis adjustment.
But two laps after Newman left pit road, he radioed to Gibson that he felt a vibration in his car and thought he might have a loose wheel. One lap later, the vibration became too much and Newman headed back to pit road for an unscheduled green-flag pit stop to change four tires and add a splash of fuel.
Newman returned to the track in 36th place, two laps behind the leaders, while Gibson and other crew members checked each of the four wheels to see if they could figure out what caused the vibration.
“We’re not sure what exactly happened,” Gibson said. “We think something may have gotten between the wheel and the hub so, when the tire changer tightened up the lugnuts, it caused the wheel to bend once it got on track. Still, it’s hard to say until we get back to the shop and look at the tapes and look at the data. It’s just a freak deal.”
From there, Newman and Gibson worked on the handling of the car and gained one of their two laps back by the 350-mile mark of the race.
Then things began to look up for the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic team. On lap 262, the caution came out and Newman and Gibson opted not to pit with the field but, instead, take the “wave-around,” which meant they would be allowed to pass the pace car just before the field went back to green and get back on the lead lap.
When the race restarted on lap 267, Newman was back on the lead lap but needed a caution so he could pit and remain on the same lap as the leaders. It took but three laps for that to happen as the caution came out on lap 270 for debris, which allowed Newman to pit one lap later for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment.
On lap 300, several of the top cars began to pit, but Newman stayed on track for several more laps as he had more fuel in his tank due to the later pit stop. This allowed Newman to move into the lead from laps 320 to 323. But, with 11 laps remaining, he was forced to pit for two tires and a splash of fuel. He fell to 19th but managed to gain three positions before the checkered flag fell.
“We had a freak thing happen on that first pit stop,” Newman said. “It’s kind of the way our luck has gone during the Chase. I’m proud of the guys for rallying back and we salvaged a 16th out of it and got back on the lead lap. Just wish we could have given Quicken Loans a better showing for their first race. I’m really looking forward to having them on our car for nine races next season and we’re going to do all we can to get them to victory lane.”
Newman’s SHR teammate, Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala, led seven times for a race-high 173 laps en route to winning the AAA Texas 500.
It was Stewart’s fourth win and 17th top-10 result of 2011, his second win and 11th top-10 in 20 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas, and his 43rd win in 462 career Sprint Cup races. Stewart is now just one victory shy of tying 1988 Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott for 15th on the series’ all-time win list.
This was the fifth Sprint Cup victory for SHR in 2011, as Newman won in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. SHR now has 12 Sprint Cup victories since its inception in 2009.
Stewart finished 1.092 seconds ahead of runner-up Carl Edwards, while Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and A.J. Allmendinger comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 21 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 334-lap race.
Stewart and Newman are both in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup and came into Texas second and 12th, respectively, in the Chase standings. Stewart was eight points behind Chase leader Edwards while Newman was 89 points out of the top spot. Stewart leaves Texas still second in points, but is now just three markers behind series leader Edwards. Newman remained 12th in the standings and is now 103 points out of first.