Newman Salvages Top-15 Finish at Kansas
Haas Automation Driver Remains 10th in Points
Despite never quite getting a handle on his No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet in Sunday’s STP 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Ryan Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team never gave up and managed to salvage a top-15 finish. It was Newman’s seventh top-15 of the 2011 season.
Pit strategy late in the race afforded the No. 39 team the ability to stay out and not pit for fuel in the closing laps as many of the leaders had to do. Thanks to the pit call, Newman was able to gain several spots in the running order as other teams were forced to pit or face running out of fuel. He finished 15th.
“It was a disappointing day for all of us,” Newman said. “We hung in there, but it just wasn’t what we were hoping for out of our Haas Automation Chevy.”
Newman struggled with the handling of his racecar from the drop of the green flag. He started 12th but soon lost several spots because he said his car was too tight in the center of the corners. By lap 40, Newman had dropped to 19th place.
Three laps later, on lap 43, Newman pitted for the first time for four tires, fuel and air-pressure and wedge adjustments. The timing of the pit stop was especially good for the No. 39 team as it was discovered his right-rear tire was losing air.
While he was able to avoid a flat tire, the adjustments unfortunately didn’t help Newman’s cause on the racetrack. His car started out too tight on the ensuing run, and he also complained that the car lacked rear grip. Newman said he couldn’t get into the corners the way he needed to because his car was too loose on entry.
A caution on lap 68 gave the Haas Automation crew another opportunity to work on Newman’s ill-handling racecar. The crew made a track-bar adjustment, changed four tires and added fuel. Newman returned to the track for the restart on lap 72 in 17th place.
But it was only a handful of laps before Newman radioed back to his crew that his machine was “wicked, wicked loose,” and he began to fall through the field once again. The loose racecar cost Newman dearly on the racetrack as he fell 10 positions to 27th place by lap 85.
Newman continued to describe his car’s ill-handling mannerisms to crew chief Tony Gibson, who with the team attempted to devise a plan to help stabilize the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevy on the racetrack. Over the remainder of the race, the team made a variety of wedge and track-bar adjustments. They also used caution periods to their advantage on two occasions to add two halves of a spring rubber to the right rear and make a left-rear shock adjustment.
Unfortunately, the car didn’t respond to those particular changes. For Newman, the frustration was that his racecar was plowing tight on the bottom of the racetrack, yet loose when he tried the high line. Despite the multitude of changes, nothing turned out to help Newman regain the lost spots or the ill-handling ways of the No. 39.
Although the frustration began to mount, the team didn’t give up and, when the opportunity presented itself, they opted to try and use pit strategy to help them take a bad day and make something of it.
A caution on lap 161 played into Newman & Company’s favor. Despite pitting less than 10 laps prior during another caution period, Newman and Gibson elected to bring the No. 39 down pit road again for four tires and fuel. Gibson instructed his fuel man to pack the car full of fuel. The pit stop would put the No. 39 team on a different strategy from many of the leaders, banking on the possibility that, should the race stay green, Newman would only need to pit one additional time for fuel.
Newman’s last pit stop for four tires and fuel came on lap 215. The No. 39 returned to the track in 27th place and Gibson told his driver that, if luck was to be on the team’s side, then most of the cars ahead of him would need to pit for fuel, which would help the No. 39 salvage a respectable finish on an otherwise long and difficult day.
Luckily, the caution flag never waved and the leaders were forced to pit. Newman was able to make up 12 spots for his 15th-place finish.
Teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 The Glades/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished eighth. It was Stewart’s fifth top-10 finish of the season.
Brad Keselowski won the STP 400 to score his second career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his first at Kansas.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 2.813 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot, while Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Stewart, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 22 laps with eight drivers failing to finish.
With round 13 of 36 complete, Stewart picked up one position to rise to eighth in the Sprint Cup championship point standings. He now has 393 points and is 92 markers behind series leader Edwards. Newman maintained his 10th-place standing and has 382 points, 103 back of Edwards.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the June 12 Pocono 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.