Despite being caught up in a multi-car wreck coming to the checkered flag in the Coke Zero 400 Saturday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) scored a solid 10th-place finish. It was Newman’s eighth top-10 of the season and his sixth top-10 at Daytona in 24 starts.
Newman started Saturday night’s race in 21st position. He and crew chief Matt Borland opted to play it safe with their race strategy, so Newman quickly dropped to the back of the pack and “just ride,” which is what Newman did for the majority of the race – until the final 10 laps.
Newman began his charge through the field when the race restarted at lap 153 of the scheduled 160-lap event following a red flag for accident cleanup. Newman restarted in 28th place.
He had moved into 19th when the caution flag waved again just four laps later, setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
In the final two-lap sprint to the finish, Newman picked up nine spots to record a solid top-10 despite being caught up in the final-lap wreck that caused extensive damage to the Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet. Newman was unhurt in the melee.
Newman’s teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Ducks Unlimited Chevrolet SS, led the way for SHR Saturday night by finishing second.
Stewart scored his ninth top-five and 14th top-10 in 30 career point-paying Sprint Cup starts at the 2.5-mile oval. It was also his fourth top-five and sixth top-10 finish this season.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 14th. It was Patrick’s 28th career Sprint Cup start.
Jimmie Johnson won the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola to score his 64th career Sprint Cup victory, his fourth of the season and his third at Daytona. Johnson, who also won this year’s season-opening Daytona 500, became the first driver since NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison in 1982 to sweep the Daytona 500 and the Coke Zero 400 in the same season.
Stewart finished .107 of a second behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip rounded out the top-five. Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Casey Mears and Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 27 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish the 161-lap race, which was extended one lap by a green-white-checkered finish.
With round 18 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He moved up six spots to 10th and has 499 points, 159 back of series leader Johnson and six points ahead of 11th-place Martin Truex Jr. Newman moved up two spots to 16th place and has 482 points, 176 out of first and 17 behind 10th-place Stewart. Patrick picked up two spots to 25th and has 343 points, 315 behind Johnson and 156 away from Stewart.
Eight races remain before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Truex (11th) and Kasey Kahne (12th) are the only drivers between 11th and 20th in points with a victory, so they hold the first and second wild-card spots, respectively.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Camping World RV Sales 301 on Sunday, July 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at noon.