Nothing was easy for Ryan Newman and the Outback Steakhouse race team Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, but their hardworking efforts were rewarded as their silver-and-black No. 39 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) crossed the finish line ninth in the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Newman started 13th in the 43-car field and led once for two laps en route to scoring his fifth top-10 in 21 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile oval. It was also his 17th top-10 this season.
From the drop of the green flag, Newman struggled with a loose-handling Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet that challenged his ability to make forward progress. At one point, Newman described his racecar as “crashing loose” and opted to play it safe until having the opportunity to pit. Crew chief Matt Borland ordered adjustments on every pit stop, ranging from air pressure to wedge and track bar, but was unable to dial the handling toward Newman’s liking.
Despite the uncomfortable handling of the racecar, Newman raced his way inside the top-10 in the latter stages of the 334-lap race. Newman and Borland agreed to make one last change during a green-flag pit stop at lap 297. Newman pitted for four tires, fuel and a final track bar adjustment, and returned to the track in 14th-place. Newman gained five positions over the final 34 laps to take the checkered flag in ninth.
“There wasn’t much that we didn’t try to change,” Newman said. “We fought with the handling of our Outback Steakhouse Chevy all day, but Matt (Borland, crew chief) and the team worked on it every stop, and it had gotten better. We just couldn’t get it to where I needed it to be. But in spite of how much we struggled today, to finish ninth was good. We’ll certainly take that after the day we had.”
Newman’s SHR teammate Mark Martin, interim driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS as he subs for the injured Tony Stewart, finished 11th.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 25th. It was Patrick’s 44th career Sprint Cup start and her third at Texas. Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished nine spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 16th.
Jimmie Johnson won the AAA Texas 500 to score his 66th career Sprint Cup victory, his sixth of the season and his third at Texas. Johnson led 255 laps, the second-highest amount in Texas history behind Stewart, who led 278 circuits en route to victory Nov. 5, 2006.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 4.390 seconds behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five. Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Newman and Clint Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 26 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 334-lap race.
Newman is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and entered the eighth race of the 10-race Chase 12th among the 13 Chase drivers, 106 points behind Chase leaders Kenseth and Johnson, who were tied for the point lead. Newman leaves Texas still in 12th, 118 points behind Johnson, who is seven points ahead of second-place Kenseth.