ALL-STAR RACE ENDS WITH A LINGERING "WHAT IF" FOR NEWMAN Tornados Driver Finishes 11th in Non-Points Event For Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Tornados team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte ...
ALL-STAR RACE ENDS WITH A LINGERING "WHAT IF" FOR NEWMAN
Tornados Driver Finishes 11th in Non-Points Event
For Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Tornados team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway could be succinctly summed up as a story of "what-ifs."
Newman, who had battled the handling of his racecar during the first 90 laps of the 100-lap event, appeared to have a shot at his second All-Star victory with just a handful of laps remaining. However, it was not meant to be for Newman, who won the non-points race during his rookie season in 2002.
When the caution flag waved at lap 98 for a two-car accident, Newman & Company elected to come to pit road for fresh right-side tires for what they believed would be the final shootout of the night.
Newman returned to the 1.5-mile oval in eighth-place, and when the green flag waved for the restart, Newman wasted no time making his move. He piloted his No. 39 Tornados Chevy to the high line and sailed around a line of cars. As Newman was making a pass to move into the third position, the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson spun off turn four to bring out the caution.
Sitting in third with the race under caution, Newman looked to be in prime position for the closing laps of the race. After all, he had the freshest tires of the front-runners and his car had seemingly taken off like a rocket ship on the last restart. But that's where the scenario changed for Newman and his crew.
While Newman, crew chief Tony Gibson and his team believed that the No. 39 car should be posted in the third spot for the restart, NASCAR told the No. 39 team that was not the case. The ruling was that because a lap was not officially completed and caution laps don't count in the final 10 laps of the All-Star Race, the field reverted back to the previous lap's lineup, which placed Newman seventh.
Although Gibson and SHR competition director Bobby Hutchens pleaded their case during the caution period, it was to no avail. The No. 39 restarted in seventh for the green-white-checkered finish. Mired in traffic and with a tight-handling racecar, Newman couldn't get the quick restart he had the time before, and he finished a disappointing 11th.
"It's definitely disappointing. We had fresher tires than the front two cars, so I would've liked to have seen what would've happened if we would've restarted in the third spot," Newman said. "Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be tonight. I wasn't happy with the handling of the Tornados Chevy all night, and I never could get the feel I wanted for the racecar. But at the end of the race, we put ourselves in a position to win. It just didn't work out for us. We have some work to do before next week, and I know that Gibson and the guys will put their heads together to get this thing right."
For Newman and the No. 39 team, the fact that they were able to move up to third in the closing stages of the All-Star Race was a bright point. Newman had battled with what he termed a "wicked" racecar, as he could not seem to get a grip on its handling problems. For the first 25 laps, his Tornados Chevy was too tight. Following a series of adjustments, his car became too loose during the next 25 laps.
The Jekyl & Hyde nature of his racecar led Newman to tell Gibson that he was at a loss to give him a good explanation of what the car was doing so that the crew could work to improve the car's handling during the 10-minute break prior to the race's final 10 laps.
Newman started the final, 10-lap segment in 17th position. He narrowly avoided being collected in a five-car accident on the restart at lap 90. Because Newman believed he had slid his tires during the incident, he opted to pit for four fresh Goodyears. Newman returned to the track in 12th-place, ready to restart the for the 10-lap shootout, where only green flag laps count.
As the laps ticked off the board, Newman steadily moved up through the top-10. When the caution waved at lap 98, Newman was listed in seventh-place. It was under that caution where Newman and his team opted to come to pit road for right-side tires for what would be the last restart of the night. Newman returned to the track in eighth, and had it not been for the ill-timed caution after Newman had moved into third before an official green flag lap had been completed, who knows how the night could have ended for the No. 39 Tornados Chevy.
Newman's teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Burger King Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished fifth to score his fourth consecutive-top five finish in the non-points event and his eighth top-10 result in 12 career All-Star Races.
Kurt Busch won the All-Star Race. Martin Truex Jr. finished .358 of a second behind Busch in the runner-up spot, while Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Stewart rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Bobby Labonte comprised the remainder of the top-10.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to point-paying racing on May 30 with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.