Newman’s Solid Martinsville Run Spoiled by Misfortunes
Haas Automation Driver Salvages Top-20 Finish Despite Motor Issues, Flat Tire
For the first 327 laps of Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Haas Automation team looked to be a sure bet for another top-10 finish, or even a contender for the win. Newman led laps and ran solidly in the top-10 for most of the afternoon.
Newman’s good fortunes came undone on lap 328, however, thanks to a broken header pipe that sapped his car’s horsepower for the rest of the race, and a flat left-rear tire that sent him for a spin off turn three a little later in the race. Those events conspired to put Newman two laps down and relegated him to a 20th-place finish at the .526-mile paperclip-shaped oval.
“Our Haas Automation Chevy was bad fast,” Newman said. “Unfortunately, we had a miss in the motor and we were down on power for the last 150 laps or so of the race, and that really cost us. It’s not how we wanted our day to go, but at least we were able to salvage a top-20 finish there at the end. Like (crew chief Tony) Gibson said, it could have been a lot worse. We’ll take it and go on to Texas.”
Newman qualified second in his Haas Automation Chevrolet on Saturday afternoon, and he didn’t waste much time showing just how strong his car was once the green flag dropped at the Virginia short track on Sunday.
Despite complaining of a tight-handling condition for much of the first half of the race, Newman kept his No. 39 Chevy up front. Solid pit stops and smart adjustments improved Newman’s handling, and he appeared to be on track for yet another top-10 finish at Martinsville.
Newman was running in fourth place on lap 328, just before he was scheduled to bring his No. 39 Chevrolet down pit road for a green-flag pit stop, when he radioed to his crew that something was wrong. He wasn’t sure if he was having a motor issue or running out of fuel, so he brought the car to the attention of his pit crew for four tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment.
Newman returned to the track in 10th place. Within laps, Newman was able to tell his crew with certainty that his problem was a motor issue. Gibson coached his driver to be patient and told him to do the best with what he had. At lap 351, the caution flag waved and afforded Newman another opportunity to bring his car down pit road so his crew could attempt to diagnose and troubleshoot his issue.
The crew knew Newman had a miss in his motor, but they were not sure of the cause. Although the field was under caution, the crew opted not to raise the car’s hood to examine the engine because it would take too much time and potentially cost the No. 39 team not only position on the racetrack but multiple laps to the leaders. Instead, the crew changed left-side tires. While the tires were off, one of the crew members looked and attempted to diagnose the problem but was unable to determine the exact cause of the motor issue.
We were able to salvage a top-20 finish there at the end.
Newman pitted once more under caution for right-side tires and fuel and returned to the track without losing a lap to the leaders for the restart on lap 359. Newman took the green flag in 12th place and, despite being down on power, hoped he would be able to stay on the lead lap.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be as Newman’s bad luck continued. On lap 372, Newman cut a left-rear tire, which caused him to spin off turn three to bring out the caution flag, and that dropped Newman one lap off the pace.
With the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevy still down on power, Newman struggled for position for the remainder of the 500-lap race and lost a second lap to the leaders. Despite the adversity, Newman was able to hang on for a top-20 finish. Following the race, the Haas Automation crew determined the issue was a broken header pipe.
Teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala for SHR, fared even worse. He finished 38 laps down in 34th. A broken rear-end gear sent him to the garage area in the waning laps, but the team was able to replace the gear, allowing Stewart to finish the race and avoid a DNF (Did Not Finish).
There were 11 caution periods for 72 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.
With round six of 36 complete, Newman dropped four spots to sixth in the championship standings, 16 markers behind new series leader Busch. Stewart fell five positions to 11th and is 39 points out of first.