NEWMAN FLIRTS WITH SEASON'S FIRST TOP-10 AT BRISTOL Haas Automation Driver Rallies for 16th-Place Finish after Late-Race Pit Miscue Ryan Newman overcame a tight-handling racecar and was running as high as ninth late in Sunday's Food City 500 ...
NEWMAN FLIRTS WITH SEASON'S FIRST TOP-10 AT BRISTOL
Haas Automation Driver Rallies for 16th-Place Finish after Late-Race Pit Miscue
Ryan Newman overcame a tight-handling racecar and was running as high as ninth late in Sunday's Food City 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. But an ill-timed lug nut issue on the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet's next-to-last pit stop of the day cost Newman and his team valuable spots, after which the veteran driver rallied to post a 16th-place finish.
"We had a decent racecar," Newman said. "We fought being tight all day with the Haas Automation Chevrolet, but Tony Gibson (crew chief) kept making changes and we got better. We had a slow pit stop there at the end, which caused us to fall back after that next-to-last pit stop. But no one gave up and we kept fighting, and that's what makes me proud of these Haas Automation guys each weekend."
Despite qualifying 21st -- deeper in the field than the Haas Automation team had hoped -- Newman was confident in his team's solid short-track program and how quick his car was in practice on Saturday afternoon.
Throughout the early part of the race, however, Newman reported that his racecar was too tight, particularly from the center of the corners off. Newman's team tried a variety of air pressure adjustments during the first two pit stops in hopes of improving grip and his tight-handling condition. By lap 125, Newman, who was running in 19th place, told his crew that his car was getting better but that he had nowhere to go since he was deep in the field.
Following a caution for a brief rain shower, Newman restarted 18th on lap 147. On the restart, Newman was moved up the racetrack and slapped the SAFER Barrier on the outside retaining wall. The right-side door and right-rear quarter panel sustained cosmetic damage, but nothing that required Newman to bring the car to the attention of his pit crew. Soon after the incident, Newman told his crew that the car was "plowing tight." By lap 200, Newman had dropped back to 26th place as the tight-handling condition worsened.
Under the caution at lap 204, Newman brought the No. 39 Chevy to pit road for wedge and air pressure adjustments, four tires and fuel. The crew also pushed down Newman's left-side splitter, which had sustained damage in the earlier incident, so that it would be closer to the track's concrete surface.
The changes seemed to be just what Newman's machine needed, as he was able to click off a number of positions in only a handful of circuits around the .533-mile oval. By lap 250, Newman had moved into 15th place.
When the caution flew again at lap 264, Newman told Gibson that the car was better but he would still like to be freer. Newman asked his crew chief to do about three-quarters of the exact same adjustments he had done the time before as he felt those changes would get his car into the top-10. Again, the crew made wedge and air pressure adjustments, changed four tires and added fuel. Newman restarted the race in 16th.
Again, the changes helped Newman, and he was able to move his car through the field. By lap 340, Newman was knocking on the door of the top-10 when a wreck happened directly in his path. As one car bounced off the wall, another slid into the left front of Newman's No. 39 Chevy. For the second time, Newman's car sustained minor damage on the left side. The nose of his racecar was also knocked in. Despite the damage, Newman remained on the racetrack.
Although the team had made numerous adjustments to the car to that point, Newman -- who was running 11th -- was still too tight. Newman pitted under the caution flag at lap 390 for another round of wedge and air pressure adjustments, four tires and fuel. Unfortunately, a dropped lug nut slowed the pit stop and Newman lost critical track position. He restarted the race at lap 411 in 21st place.
Now, deep in the field and mired in traffic, Newman tried to regain his lost track position but only managed to move up five spots in the closing laps of the race. Newman finished 16th, his best result of the 2010 season.
"I feel bad we put him in a hole there at the end of the race, but he really hustled that racecar to make up some ground and I'm proud of that," Gibson said.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala and Newman's teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, finished second. It was Stewart's first top-five finish of 2010 and his sixth in 23 career Sprint Cup starts at Bristol.
Jimmie Johnson won the Food City 500 to score his 50th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Bristol. Johnson is now in a three-way tie for 10th on the all-time Sprint Cup win list with Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson.
Stewart finished .894 of a second behind Johnson, while Kurt Busch, who led 10 times for 278 laps, finished third. Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 103 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.
With round five of 36 complete, Stewart is fifth in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He gained three positions and now has 685 points, 89 markers behind series leader Kevin Harvick. Newman rose three spots to 26th in the standings. He has 452 points and is 322 points back of Harvick.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the March 28 Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.