What was shaping up to be another top-10 finish for Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Quicken Loans team in the Irwin Tools Night Race Saturday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway came to a disappointing end when a multi-car incident on lap 448 collected the red-and-white Chevrolet SS, resulting in heavy damage that would see Newman finish the race in the 21st position.
“I really don’t know what happened there,” Newman said. “A couple of guys around us, I think it was Brian Vickers and Denny Hamlin, made contact and that triggered a big mess. Our Quicken Loans Chevrolet was damaged pretty significantly; it was a handful to drive those last 50 laps with. I basically tried to just stay out of everyone’s way and bring the car to the finish.”
Newman maintained position inside the top-10 for the majority of the race despite struggling with a tight-handling Quicken Loans Chevrolet. Crew chief Matt Borland called for minor adjustments each time Newman hit pit road, which allowed him to continue making his presence known toward the front of the field.
As the laps wound down, Newman made his final scheduled stop on lap 441. With enough fuel to make it to the finish of the race, Newman set his sights on improving his position. Unfortunately, Newman didn’t get that chance. As a multi-car incident unfolded, Newman was sent into the outside retaining wall, resulting in heavy damage to the Quicken Loans Chevrolet.
The Borland-led crew made various repairs to its battered racecar to try to collect as many championship points as possible. Their efforts proved worthwhile, as a 21st-place finish was enough to advance Newman back into the wild card battle.
“The car was an absolute handful for the final 50 laps,” Newman said. “But the guys worked fast to make the repairs we needed to get back out there. At a place like Bristol, you don’t have a ton of time because the laps go by so fast. If you’re sitting on pit road getting work done, you’re losing about four laps a minute. So, their hard work paid off because we were able to stay on the lead lap to that point.
“With the point battle being what it is, every single point is so important. We need to score maximum points at each race. Even on nights like these, it’s important that we don’t give up. We’ll keep fighting until the final lap at Richmond.”
Mark Martin, interim driver of SHR’s No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS as he subs for the injured Tony Stewart, led the way for SHR by finishing 20th in the Irwin Tools Night Race.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Go Daddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 26th. It was Patrick’s 34th career Sprint Cup start and her third at Bristol.
Matt Kenseth won the Irwin Tools Night Race to score his 29th career Sprint Cup victory, his fifth of the season and his third at Bristol.
Kasey Kahne finished .188 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Juan Pablo Montoya, Brian Vickers and Logano rounded out the top-five. Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 11 caution periods for 74 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.
With round 24 of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He maintained his 15th-place standing and has 659 points, 162 back of series leader Jimmie Johnson and 26 behind 10th-place Logano. Patrick maintained her 27th-place standing and has 436 points, 385 behind Johnson and 249 away from Logano.
Just two 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. If multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Martin Truex Jr., who is 14th in points, has the first wild card via his win earlier this season at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. Newman holds the second wild card as he is 15th in points with one victory, earned in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Stewart is next in line for the wild card by virtue of his victory at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and 19th-place point standing.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished eight spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 18th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the AdvoCare 500 on Sunday, Sept. 1 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.