U.S. Army Driver Digs Deep for Longest Race of Season
Flashing a never-give-up attitude like the Army Strong Soldiers he drives for, Ryan Newman secured a 14th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), had to deal with a “neutral” racecar throughout NASCAR’s longest race of the season, while having to battle through a hot, steamy Memorial Day eve.
“It was a pretty tough race,” said Newman, who registered his 380th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. “It seemed we just couldn’t get a handle on the racecar. We made numerous adjustments on every pit stop, but all we were able to do was just maintain. All things considered, to come away with a top-15, was not that bad.”
The South Bend, Ind., native had high hopes coming into the 12th race of the year. Given the significance of the weekend, he was looking to carry the U.S. Army colors all the way into victory lane.
“We wanted to do that real bad,” Newman offered. “We knew what our mission was tonight and we gave it all we had. Every race we do our best to represent the more than one million Soldiers who fight for our freedom each and every day. I’m definitely proud to be associated with such brave men and women.”
After starting 16th, Newman floated between 12th and 17th for much of the 600-mile event. But, along the way, he had to fight a tight-handling racecar.
“I wish we could’ve gotten it driving better,” Newman said. “I really thought we might eventually have something for those guys up front. We kept digging deep, but it was like we were running in place in terms of positioning. I thought the guys did a great job in the pits, but I guess the car didn’t want to cooperate tonight.”
Newman’s SHR teammate, Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy, finished 25th after a pit road collision dropped him off the lead lap.
Kasey Kahne won the Coca-Cola 600 to score his 13th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his fourth at Charlotte, and in doing so, set a record pace of three hours, 51 minutes and 14 seconds. Denny Hamlin finished 4.295 seconds behind Kahne in the runner-up spot, while Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 23 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish the 400-lap race.
With round 12 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR duo in the championship point standings. He fell two spots to ninth and now has 388 points, 65 back of series leader Biffle and 16 points ahead of 10th-place Edwards.
Newman picked up one position to climb to 13th and now has 337 points, which puts him 116 points behind Biffle and in a tie with Paul Menard. Newman gets the nod over Menard by virtue of having a win this season while Menard is winless thus far.