Darlington: Ryan Newman race report

HANDLING ISSUES DOG NEWMAN AT DARLINGTON Haas Automation Driver Credits Qualifying Effort, Quick Pit Work for Top-10 Finish Determination once again drove Ryan Newman and his Haas Automation crew as they scored a hard-fought ninth-place...

Haas Automation Driver Credits Qualifying Effort, Quick Pit Work for Top-10 Finish

Determination once again drove Ryan Newman and his Haas Automation crew as they scored a hard-fought ninth-place finish in Saturday night's Showtime Southern 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway

Even with an ill-handling racecar that hampered the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team throughout the 367-lap marathon, Newman and Co., overcame it all to score their second-consecutive top-10 finish of the season and their fourth top-10 in the last six races.

"We had a good qualifying spot with the Haas Automation Chevy, and we had great pit stops all night on pit road and that really kept us in the game," said Newman after the race. "I have to thank all the guys on the Haas Automation crew for that. It wasn't the finish we had hoped to get, but it was a solid points night for us and that is a credit to what our team did in the pits tonight."

Newman started sixth in the 61st running of the legendary Southern 500 and felt that he would have a car that could contend for the win, but "The Track Too Tough to Tame" lived up to its name as Newman battled a variety of handling issues that saw his racecar go from one extreme to the next -- too tight on one run and then too loose on the following run.

At lap five, Newman told crew chief Tony Gibson that his No. 39 Haas Automation Chevy was too tight in turns three and four, especially when coming off turn four. Newman slid back a couple of spots, but he was able to maintain his position in the top-10. When the caution flag waved at lap 45, the pit crew made an air pressure and wedge adjustment, changed four tires and added fuel. The quick stop put Newman back on track in sixth place.

Within only a handful of laps, Newman reported the changes the crew had made to the car were too severe, as his No. 39 Chevy was now too loose. Newman told Gibson that the car was free coming off turn two, which was causing him to lose speed. The car was also too free coming off turn four. Again, Newman was able to hold onto his spot in the top-10 despite his loose-handling racecar.

When the caution flag waved at lap 83, Newman brought his No. 39 Chevy to the attention of his crew. The team opted to change right-side tires and add fuel. The pit crew also reversed the wedge adjustment from the previous stop in hopes of now tightening the racecar back up for the next green-flag run. Newman restarted in the 10th spot.

For Newman, handling issues were the tale of the night at Darlington. Although he never dropped out of the top-20 and actually spent the majority of the night in the top-10, neither he nor his crew could ever hit the series of adjustments that would make his car successful at both ends of the egg-shaped oval. His car's handling swung from too tight to too lose throughout the entire 367-lap event.

With each pit stop, the crew made a variety of chassis adjustments in hopes of finding the right combination that would help aid its driver's efforts behind the wheel. Despite both the driver and team's frustration at not being able to strike a solid mixture of adjustments, there was no giving up. Quick pit stops helped keep Newman near the front, giving him valuable spots on the racetrack. In the end, he was able to secure a solid ninth-place result for his eighth top-10 finish at Darlington in 12 career Sprint Cup starts.

Teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished 23rd.

Denny Hamlin won the Showtime Southern 500 to score his 11th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Darlington. Jamie McMurray finished 1.908 seconds behind Hamlin in the runner-up slot, while Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Newman and Brian Vickers comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were 11 caution periods for 56 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 367-lap race.

With round 11 of 36 complete, Newman is 14th in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He gained one spot and now has 1,280 points, 38 points outside the top-12. Stewart lost three positions to fall to 18th in the standings. He has 1,259 points and is 59 points outside the top-12.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the May 16 Autism Speaks 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at noon.

-source: shr / tsc

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya