Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 State Water Heaters Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), struggled early in the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, but a mid-race pit strategy call by crew chief Matt Borland seemed to have Newman in position to contend for a top-five finish. But contact with Kevin Harvick on lap 319 saw those chances evaporate as the No. 39 team spent some 60 laps in the garage area making major repairs to their battered racecar, leaving Newman 38th when the checkered flag waved.
Mired in the back of the pack, Borland and Newman agreed to gamble. Newman stayed on the racetrack while some competitors in front of him hit pit road for scheduled service. The gamble appeared to pay off, as Newman advanced from ninth place on the restart to third in just 25 laps.
Once he had good track position, Newman stayed in the top-10 until lap 319, when he was hit from behind by Harvick. While he was able to drive the severely damaged State Water Heaters Chevrolet SS to pit road, Borland instructed Newman to continue to the garage, where major repairs were made. The time spent in the garage saw Newman lose some 60 laps, but he was able to return to the track, where he was credited with a 38th-place finish after completing 432 of 500 laps.
“That was a pretty unfortunate end to our day,” Newman said. “We were making progress with our State Water Heaters Chevrolet. We didn’t start out the day too strong, but once we had track position, I felt like we had a chance to come out of it with a good finish. I don’t know what happened there with the No. 29 car (Kevin Harvick). He got into us going off into the corner, and the next thing you know, I’m in the wall. The guys worked incredibly hard to get the car back out there so that we could salvage what we could of it. It’s unfortunate, but we can’t do anything about it now. We’ll go on to Texas next week and hopefully get a good finish there.”
Newman’s teammate Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS, led the three-car SHR contingent by finishing 17th.
Patrick rallied from a tough start to the weekend, which began when she crashed her primary racecar in practice on Friday. Patrick started 41st using her backup racecar and methodically worked her way to the front and stayed out of trouble to log her eighth top-20 of the season. Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 14 spots ahead of Stenhouse, who placed 31st.
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 36th. Martin was running 14th when he was collected by a spinning Kurt Busch on lap 204, which inflicted heavy damage to the right-front corner of Martin’s Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy. The crew made repairs and send Martin back onto the racetrack, 45 laps down.
Jeff Gordon won the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 to score his 88th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his eighth at Martinsville. His victory clinched the 2013 manufacturer’s title for Chevrolet, the brand’s 37th in the Sprint Cup Series and 11th in a row.
Matt Kenseth finished .605 of a second behind Gordon in the runner-up spot, while Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five. Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 17 caution periods for 111 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.
Newman is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and entered the seventh race of the 10-race Chase 11th among the 13 Chase drivers, 72 points behind Chase leader Johnson. Newman leaves Martinsville in 12th, 106 points behind Chase leaders Kenseth and Johnson, who are tied for the point lead.