For Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Haas Automation/U.S. Army team, track position and tire issues proved to be the biggest challenges in Sunday's 16th Allstate 400 at the Brickyard NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Both ...
For Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Haas Automation/U.S. Army team, track position and tire issues proved to be the biggest challenges in Sunday's 16th Allstate 400 at the Brickyard NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Both proved to be insurmountable as Newman soldiered to a 14th-place finish for his 11th top-15 of the season.
Newman, admittedly disappointed in himself after qualifying 17th on Saturday afternoon, knew before the green flag dropped that he had his work cut out for him as track position is typically a huge key to success at the 2.5-mile oval. Starting in the middle of the pack meant that Newman would have to battle with not only traffic, but also "dirty air," which affects the car's handling and makes it difficult to catch and pass the cars ahead of him.
It didn't take long for Newman's hunch to prove true. Running 16th on lap 18, he told his crew that the car "wasn't bad," but he just could not make up any ground because he was stuck in dirty air. Newman also reported that his car had started out with a loose condition, but that it had gotten tighter as the run progressed.
On lap 31, Newman made his first green-flag pit stop of the day. The No. 39 team changed four tires, fuel and made air pressure and track bar adjustments in hopes of improving the car and helping Newman pick up spots and gain valuable track position. Although Newman's team was solid on pit road, he returned to the track in 16th place.
Battling traffic and trying to gain track position proved to be difficult for Newman throughout the 160-lap race. However, the biggest challenge turned out to be tires. During three separate runs, Newman told his crew that the car had a vibration and that it felt like his tires were "unbalanced," which caused the car to bounce and shake on the racetrack. The team worked on Newman's car at every opportunity and, with each pit stop, hoped that new tires would help improve the issue. But nothing seemed to help.
"I don't know what else to tell you," Newman said at lap 105 while running in the 17th spot. "The car's a little free in and a little tight off. But the tires are just bouncing like crazy and it's not getting better."
Newman made a charge on the final restart of the race at lap 136 and was able to move up as high as 11th, but in the end he could not make his car stick to the track and he took the checkered flag in 14th.
"I told (crew chief Tony) Gibson on several occasions that I couldn't complain about the car because our problem wasn't handling or anything like that," Newman said. "We got behind from the start and had to deal with a lot of traffic and dirty air and there just wasn't a lot of passing out there. About midway through the race, we had a few sets of tires that I wasn't happy with. They were making the car bounce, and I just couldn't do anything with it.
"It's definitely not the finish that we wanted with our No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet, but in the end, I think we had a decent points day and that's important for us right now because we are trying to secure a position in the Chase."
Newman's Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate and owner, Tony Stewart, finished third and continues to lead the two-car SHR contingent in the championship point race as he remains atop the standings with a 192-point advantage over second-place Jimmie Johnson. Newman remained seventh in the standings, 548 markers out of first.
Juan Pablo Montoya dominated the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard by leading three times for a race-high 116 laps, but a pit-road speeding penalty late in the event took him out of contention and he ended up a disappointing 11th.
Johnson led only once, but the three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion was at the point for the final 24 circuits around the 2.5-mile oval to take the win in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. It was Johnson's 43rd career victory, his third of the season and his third at Indianapolis.
Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Mark Martin, finished .400 of a second behind him, while Stewart, Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, David Reutimann, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were only three caution periods for 14 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 160-lap race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Aug. 2 Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 1 p.m.