Ryan Newman overcame a pit road penalty and an ill-handling racecar and battled back from being two laps down midway through the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, earning a hard-fought 15th-place finish. It was Newman’s seventh top-15 result of 2012 and his 16th top-15 in 21 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1-mile concrete oval.
“I really expected for us to have a better finish with our Quicken Loans Chevy today,” Newman said. “We had a good qualifying spot, and I thought we had a good shot at getting a finish in the top-10 today, but it just didn’t work out. It was a frustrating day, but we will move on and head to Pocono.”
Early in the race, Newman struggled with a loose-handling racecar. While he managed to keep his Quicken Loans Chevy in the top five for the first 25 laps of the race, Newman couldn’t hold on to his spot. He struggled with a car that was sliding all over the racetrack, and he couldn’t make up any ground. By lap 100, Newman had slid to 17th in the running order.
Under caution at lap 105, Newman brought his extremely loose racecar to pit road. The crew changed four tires, added a rubber to the left rear spring and fuel in hopes of helping Newman’s handling woes. But a right-rear tire got away from the crew on the stop, and Newman was assessed a penalty for the uncontrolled tire.
Newman was forced to return to pit road due to the penalty. While on pit road, his crew made a right rear shock adjustment and added more fuel. He restarted the race in 20th place on lap 116.
But myriad adjustments to the racecar didn’t help. At lap 130, Newman radioed that his car was too tight. Newman told his crew chief his Chevy started too tight but became too loose when cars started to run single-file. Newman explained his racecar still lacked rear grip, and he couldn’t keep the back end of the car in the racetrack, which made it difficult for him to drive.
So, under caution at lap 164, the team reversed the previous changes by removing the rubber and undoing the shock adjustment. Newman returned to the track in 19th place.
But things didn’t get any better. At lap 220, Newman radioed his crew that he thought he had a right front tire going down. Not wanting to risk crashing due to a blown tire, Newman was forced to come down pit road for an unscheduled pit stop and four fresh Goodyear tires.
Unfortunately, NASCAR threw the caution flag for debris just a handful of laps after South Bend, Ind., native Newman exited pit road. The untimely caution flag put Newman two laps down to his competitors, in 22nd place. But thanks to all the competitors in front of him pitting, Newman got the wave-around and regained one of his laps.
From that point, Newman refused to give up. He fought to put himself in the “Lucky Dog” position – to be the first car one lap down – if the caution flag waved again. Newman’s tenacity on the racetrack paid off, as he was able to slide in front of Denny Hamlin right as the caution flag waved at lap 345 and get the “Lucky Dog,” putting Newman back on the lead lap in 19th place.
Newman continued to struggle with an ill-handling racecar, but he was able to break into the top 15 before the end of the race.
Newman’s SHR teammate, Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, finished 25th.
Jimmie Johnson won the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks to score his 57th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his seventh at Dover. Johnson is now tied with NASCAR legends Bobby Allison and Richard Petty for most career Sprint Cup victories at Dover.
Kevin Harvick finished 2.550 seconds behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Aric Almirola, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Marcos Ambrose comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 32 laps, with 17 drivers failing to finish the 400-lap race.
With round 13 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR duo in the championship point standings. He picked up one spot to climb to eighth and has 407 points, 79 back of series leader Greg Biffle and one point ahead of ninth-place Kyle Busch. Newman maintained his 13th-place standing and has 366 points, which puts him 120 points behind Biffle while providing a one-point cushion over 14th-place Kasey Kahne.