Newman Endures Tough Outing In Fontana; Haas Automation Driver Fights Ill-Handling Racecar to 28th-Place Finish Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), battled a loose-handling racecar...
Newman Endures Tough Outing In Fontana; Haas Automation Driver Fights Ill-Handling Racecar to 28th-Place Finish
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), battled a loose-handling racecar and numerous other issues en route to a 28th-place finish in Sunday's Auto Club 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
"Tony Gibson (crew chief) and the guys on the Haas Automation Chevy made a lot of changes throughout the night, but it just seemed like everything we changed wasn't enough in the end," said Newman after completing his 12th career Sprint Cup start at the 2-mile oval. "We were so loose getting into the turns all night. I don't know if we weren't making big enough changes to the car or if we were chasing the racetrack, but unfortunately, we just couldn't make the No. 39 Chevy better."
Newman's day got off to a rocky start. The Haas Automation team elected to pit during a caution period at lap five to address Newman's handling woes, but during the stop, where the crew changed right-side tires and made a chassis adjustment, the left side wing-plate on the car's rear spoiler was inadvertently damaged.
Meanwhile, the lap-recording transponder affixed by NASCAR to all cars competing in the race quit working on the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevy. NASCAR called Newman back to pit road where the Gibson-led crew could replace it without losing any positions on the racetrack -- or so they thought. As Newman exited pit road after the transponder change, the left side wing-plate broke and fell off onto the racetrack. Under NASCAR rules, the wing-plates must be attached, so Newman had to return to pit road and have it replaced. The additional pit stops for the repairs left Newman in 43rd-place when the race restarted on lap 23.
Despite the difficult beginning, Newman and his team battled back and moved into the top-25. However, handling problems continued to dog Newman, hampering his forward progress. By lap 100, he had fallen one lap down to the leaders.
The team continued to make numerous chassis adjustments whenever the opportunity arose to give Newman a better handle on his racecar. During the last 150 laps of the 250-lap race, progress appeared to be made, as Newman moved into the top-20. But problems struck again.
With just 25 laps remaining, Newman radioed to the team that his car's oil and water temperatures had climbed to dangerous levels. The crew quickly diagnosed the problem -- a plastic tear-off discarded from another car's windshield was covering nearly the entire front grill opening of the No. 39 Chevy, negating the cooling effects the grill offers to the engine. As his oil and water gauges spiked, Newman was forced to pit so that the team could clean the car's grill, costing the team another lap and several spots on the racetrack.
"We've had a rough couple of weeks," said Newman, alluding to the bad luck that also plagued him in last Sunday's Daytona 500, where in the lead-up to the season-opener, he endured a blown engine and two wrecked racecars. "If we could get a little luck on our side, I think that would be a big step in the right direction."
Tony Stewart, Newman's SHR teammate and driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala SS, finished eighth. It was Stewart's second top-10 finish is as many races, and it bumped him up four spots to third in the championship standings after round two of 36 on the Sprint Cup schedule. Stewart trails series leader Matt Kenseth by 91 points.
Despite the tough outing in Fontana, Newman gained two spots to climb to 34th in the standings, where he sits 251 points out of first.
There were five caution periods for 43 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 500-mile race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the March 1 Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.