Newman Overcomes Adversity To Finish Fifth at Las Vegas
Haas Automation Driver Earns Second Consecutive Top-Five Finish
Ryan Newman overcame an ill-handling racecar to score a solid fifth-place finish in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was Newman’s second consecutive top-five effort of the season, and it moved him to fifth in the championship point standings.
“I’m just proud of everybody on this Haas Automation Chevrolet and at Stewart-Haas for giving us this opportunity,” said Newman, who now has two top-five finishes in 11 career Sprint starts at Las Vegas. “It was a good double top-five for us at Stewart-Haas Racing. We really fought back today. We were really loose for 80 percent of the race, but the last two runs when it cooled down, we could just kind of ride. We had a fast racecar – it just took us a while to get the balance right. Once we did, we had a good day and we were able to come out of here with another top-five. This is the best start we’ve had as a team and the best start I’ve had in several years.”
While Newman qualified in the top-10 on Friday, his racecar didn’t quite handle the way he had hoped come Sunday. Newman started eighth and within just a handful of laps, he radioed to crew chief Tony Gibson that his racecar was just too free in general. Newman pitted under the first caution at lap eight for fuel and a track bar adjustment in hopes of helping his loose-handling racecar.
Newman restarted in 12th on lap 13. Once again, He reported that his car was too loose, especially getting into turn three and all the way through turn four. As the laps ticked off the board, the Haas Automation machine became more and more loose. Newman pitted once again under the green flag at lap 56 for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Once the green flag pit stops cycled through, Newman was 21st.
Unfortunately, the second round of changes didn’t improve Newman’s handling issues. He told his crew that he was still really struggling with his car’s handling. Mired in traffic, Newman said the car was so loose he couldn’t pass, and that the team had to make a dramatic change to tighten it up.
When the caution flag waved on lap 96, Gibson told Newman that they were going to “do something big” in hopes of making a major difference to the car’s handling. The two agreed that they would make a big enough change in hopes of making the car tighter – the idea being that since the car would progressively get looser during the course of a run, the handling would come to Newman.
Newman pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The pit crew also added a half of a spring rubber in the left-rear corner in hopes of snugging up Newman’s Haas Automation Chevy.
Following that change, Newman reported that his car was better, but it still needed to be tighter so that it wouldn’t get so loose during the run. Gibson and the pit crew continued to strategize on ways to improve the car’s handling, and when the opportunity presented itself, the crew made a variety of adjustments to the car, including air pressure and wedge adjustments.
By lap 156, Newman was running 11th and told his crew that all the changes had helped, for his racecar was finally tight. Newman was holding his own and told his crew that he had a very fast racecar – if they could get the balance right. Following a quick pit stop under caution at lap 198, Newman moved into the top-10 for the first time since the early stages of the race.
Newman remained in the top-10 for the rest of the afternoon. The No. 39 team had to pit one last time for fuel and right-side tires at lap 240 for the final stretch of the race. Again, quick pit work and a good call to take only two tires helped Newman get back on track and gain spots as the laps wound down.
“We definitely didn’t think we would be as loose as we were today,” Newman said. “But we kept working on it and making adjustments, and finally, we got it to where it worked. The guys on pit road really rebounded today and did a good job at the end to get me out fast and help pick up some positions. It was definitely a hard-fought battle for us today, and I’m proud of everyone on this team.”
Teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished second. Stewart dominated the event by leading four times for a race-high 163 laps, but a pit road miscue on lap 151 dropped him to 21st. He rallied to take over second from Juan Pablo Montoya on lap 263 of the 267-lap race, but ran out of time to run down Carl Edwards, who took the win by 1.246 seconds over Stewart.
The last time both SHR drivers finished in the top-five came last October at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Stewart won and Newman finished fifth.
By winning the Kobalt Tools 400, Edwards scored his 19th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his second at Las Vegas. His previous victory at the 1.5-mile oval was in 2008.
Following Edwards, Stewart and Montoya across the stripe in fourth was Marcos Ambrose. Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 35 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish.
With round three of 36 complete, Stewart is tied with Busch for first in the Sprint Cup championship point standings. Each driver has 113 points and is seven markers ahead of Edwards and Montoya, who are tied for third. Newman moved up to fifth in the standings. He has 103 points and is 10 out of the lead.
The Sprint Cup Series takes a rare weekend off before heading to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for the March 20 Jeff Byrd 500. The race begins at 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 12:30 p.m.