No. 39 Team in Right Place at Right Time to Score First Bloomin’ Win of 2012 Season
Ryan Newman was in the right place at the right time during NASCAR’s version of “overtime” to win the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday in a green-white-checkered finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Newman won despite falling one lap down early in the race after receiving a penalty for speeding on pit road. Throughout that challenge, Newman and his No. 39 Outback Steakhouse team refused to give up, fought for every spot on the racetrack and earned their first Bloomin’ win of the 2012 season. Newman took his first – and only – lead of the day on lap 504 when he dove under leaders Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer after they collided in turn one. He held off A.J. Allmendinger on the final restart in a tough duel on lap 514 and pulled away on the last lap for the victory.
“First of all, I’ve got to thank Outback and U.S. Army, Chevrolet, and Sprint for all they do for this series, and Coca-Cola,” said Newman, who enjoyed his first career win at Martinsville. “We have some great sponsors this year. Quicken Loans, WIX Filters, Bass Pro Shops, Tornados, Aspen Dental, Haas Automation and obviously the fans, who are a big part of this sport. I need to thank Hendrick, as well, for their support. Their engines are phenomenal, Tony Stewart and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. It was an awesome day for the Outback Chevrolet, and everyone can go get a Bloomin’ Onion® tomorrow on us.
We’ve been in that position here and been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it’s nice to be able to at least balance it out and get Outback in victory lane.
“The first green-white-checkered, I told the guys on the radio: ‘Listen, good job today. I’m not sure if I can bring it back,’ and that’s when the whole deal happened in turn one. It was just circumstances with the No. 10 (David Reutimann) there doing what he did. I’m not sure what happened or if he ran out of fuel or had a problem whatever happened. But it was an awesome finish for us. We got circumstances there plus we were in the right position. The guys did a great job with the car.”
The day was not without its share of issues for Newman and the No. 39 team. While entering the pits during the first caution of the day on lap 99, Newman was dinged for a pit-road speeding penalty that forced him to restart the race from the end of the longest line in 21st place. The loss of track position hurt even more on lap 218, when Newman fell victim to the rapid race pace, losing one lap to leader Gordon.
But Newman dug in his heels and focused on remaining the first driver one lap down and in position to earn his lap back. His determination proved successful when the third caution flag of the day flew at lap 265. Newman was in the “lucky dog” position, which allowed him to earn his lap back as the first car one lap down. Newman restarted the race in 13th, back on the lead lap.
As the laps wound down, Newman quietly stalked the race leaders and moved as high as sixth.
A late-race caution at lap 498 – two laps from the scheduled finish – set off the events that led to Newman’s first win at Martinsville. Under the caution flag, Newman opted to bring his Outback Chevy to the attention of his pit crew for right-side tires. Newman restarted in fifth place at lap 504, the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.
On the ensuing restart, Clint Bowyer tried to make it three-wide as the field raced toward turn one. But Bowyer’s dive-bomb move caused contact between his car and those of Gordon and Johnson. Newman quickly dove to the inside of the spinning trio to take the lead as the caution was displayed on lap 505.
“No doubt an impressive day for us; for me to take us out of the game, and we ended up going a lap down because of my speeding penalty, and the guys did an awesome job in giving us the car to make the changes,” Newman said. “We were not a dominant racecar today, but we put ourselves in contention. The way the strategy and everything worked out, coming in for two tires and Clint kind of clearing out turn one for us, we were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.
“We’ve been in that position here and been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it’s nice to be able to at least balance it out and get Outback in victory lane. That was really special for us, their first race with the team. And if we get in the top-10, you get free Bloomin’ Onions if you go to Outback and mention my name.”
The race victory was special for Newman’s crew chief, Tony Gibson, coming exactly 19 years after the tragic death of the first driver he worked with in NASCAR, 1992 Sprint Cup champion Alan Kulwicki.
“I thought about that last night, actually, and it means a lot,” Gibson said. “A lot of the reason I’m where I am is because of Alan. You know, the fight to never give up and always believe in yourself comes from him, too. So I think Alan, he put a lot of that into a lot of guys in this garage here, and not only me. It’s just pretty cool to be with Ryan with the engineering background, and he’s just like Alan. He’s wicked smart, and when you ever try to catch him on something, he’s got a little bit better answer for you. So I don’t try that anymore.
“It means a lot, today does. And any time you win is important. Any time you can win is gratifying. But today is really cool to be able to win and think about Alan and where we have all come. So I’m just happy to still be in the sport. I know I’m getting old, and I can’t believe I’ve lasted this long. But hopefully I can dig along for a little longer and get some more wins.”
The victory was the 16th of Newman’s Sprint Cup career, his first of the season, his first at Martinsville and his third since joining SHR in 2009.
This was the 16th point-paying Sprint Cup win for SHR since its inception in 2009, its third this season and second in a row. Tony Stewart scored SHR’s first victory of 2012 on March 11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and its second victory March 25 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Dating back to Stewart’s win last September at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., SHR has won eight of the last 16 Sprint Cup races.
I know I’m getting old, and I can’t believe I’ve lasted this long. But hopefully I can dig along for a little longer and get some more wins.
Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for SHR, finished seventh at Martinsville to score his third top-10 finish of 2012 and his 15th top-10 in 27 career Sprint Cup starts at the .526-mile oval.
Martinsville marked the third race this season where both SHR drivers have finished in the top-10.
Allmendinger finished .342 of a second behind Newman in the runner-up spot, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five. Denny Hamlin, Stewart, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top 10.
There were seven caution periods for 56 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish the 515-lap race, which was extended 15 laps by a green-white-checkered finish.
With round six of 36 complete, Stewart leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He gained one position and is in a four-way tie for third with Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Truex. Each driver has 214 points, 12 behind series leader Greg Biffle. But Stewart is credited with third place, as his two wins this season trump Kenseth’s lone victory, while Harvick and Truex are winless in 2012.
Newman picked up two spots to rise to eighth in the standings. He has 202 points and is 24 out of first.