Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
“We struggled all night on the short run,” Newman said. “Our Quicken Loans Chevrolet was really good as the run went on; it would come to life 20 or 25 laps into the run. But by then, we’d lost track position and couldn’t get it back. We weren’t able to capitalize on the speed we had in the car. Matt Borland (crew chief) kept adjusting on the car all night, but we couldn’t get it where we needed it to be. At the end of the day, we finished eighth, which means we’ll pay 10 mortgages for 10 fans thanks to the “Bring It Home” sweepstakes, and Monday will be a Bloomin’ Monday at Outback Steakhouse.”
Newman battled a loose-handling condition throughout much of the early going but then found his Quicken Loans Chevrolet to be too tight at the bottom of the racetrack as the race progressed. Borland called for a track bar adjustment when Newman hit pit road for service on lap 76 but went too far with the adjustment. Minor changes were made on each subsequent stop, as Borland attempted to fine-tune the handling to Newman’s liking. The adjustments paid off as Newman consistently recorded lap times faster than the race leaders on long runs but struggled early in the run to get up to speed.
When the final caution flag waved on lap 308, Borland decided to put four fresh tires on the No. 39 Chevrolet to give Newman the best chance possible to gain positions over the closing laps. Newman lined up for the final restart in 10th and gained two spots once the green flag waved. As the field spread out, Newman fought hard to better his eighth-place position but was unable to do so before the checkered flag.
“We came out of here with a decent finish, but we struggled a little bit tonight,” Newman said. “I just didn’t have the overall speed. Matt made the call to take four tires at the end, but we weren’t able to gain spots like I thought we would knowing that a lot of the guys ahead of us took two. All in all, it’s good to complain about a top-10 finish, but we expected a little more than that tonight.”
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 20th. It was Patrick’s 41st career Sprint Cup start and her third at Charlotte. Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished seven spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 13th.
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 42nd after his engine expired only 80 laps into the 334-lap race.
Brad Keselowski won the fifth race of the 10-race Chase to score his 10th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his first at Charlotte.
Kasey Kahne finished 1.022 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot, while Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Newman, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were four caution periods for 20 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish.
Newman is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and entered the fifth race of the 10-race Chase 12th among the 13 Chase drivers, 73 points behind Chase leader Kenseth. Newman leaves Charlotte still in 12th, 78 points behind Kenseth.