ILL-HANDLING CAR, PIT ROAD ISSUES COST NEWMAN IN VEGAS Tornados Driver Battles Poor Track Position, Finishes 18th Ryan Newman's 18th-place showing in Sunday's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was not the...
ILL-HANDLING CAR, PIT ROAD ISSUES COST NEWMAN IN VEGAS
Tornados Driver Battles Poor Track Position, Finishes 18th
Ryan Newman's 18th-place showing in Sunday's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was not the result he wanted for the debut race of Tornados on his No. 39 Chevrolet Impala.
The Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver was plagued by handling issues and long pit stops throughout the 267-lap event, both of which led to him being mired in traffic. The lost track position was too much to overcome, and Newman finished just inside the top-20.
"I'm not proud of where we finished," Newman said. "We have some work to do. We had some handling issues, but Tony Gibson (crew chief) kept making changes, and we were able to get the car better by the halfway point of the race, but then I just struggled in traffic. Track position is really important at Las Vegas, and I just couldn't ever get my spots back."
Newman began Sunday's race in third-place following his best qualifying effort of the season on Friday. With the sun shining on the 1.5-mile track nestled in the desert for the first time all weekend, Newman quickly reported that the handling of his car wasn't the same as it had been in final practice on Saturday. Newman told Gibson that the track seemed to have less grip in the warmer temperatures, which was causing his Tornados Chevy to be a little free off of turn four and snug in the center of turns three and four.
When the caution flag waved on lap 47, the No. 39 team had their first opportunity to work on their ill-handling ride. Newman came to pit road in seventh-place and the team changed four tires, added fuel and made a wedge adjustment in hopes of helping Newman roll through the center of the turns a little better. They returned Newman to the track in 10th-place.
Unfortunately, the changes weren't to Newman's liking. He dropped three more spots to 13th-place as the Tornados Chevrolet was still loose off the corners, and on top of that, Newman said the changes had hurt the car's handling in the center of the corner.
Another caution on lap 89 afforded the Tornados crew the opportunity to reverse and fix Newman's continuing handling issues. The team went back on the previous wedge adjustment and made track bar and air adjustments in addition to changing four tires and fuel. Newman restarted in 15th-place. He narrowly avoided an accident on the restart, quickly picking up three spots.
When the race got back to green, it only took a handful of laps before Newman complained that the changes had again hurt his racecar.
"Each time we stop, we lose spots on pit road and we lose track position and the changes that we're making aren't helping us because of how much dirty air we're in," said Newman over the radio. "We're just not helping ourselves."
Under the next caution on lap 109, Gibson and crew decided to take a big swing at the car in an attempt to improve the handling issues. The team made a major air pressure adjustment and a track bar adjustment in addition to taking tires and fuel.
"We've got to keep working on it," Gibson said. "We've got to find something so at the end of the race we have a better racecar. As long as we are doing something to make the handling better, we can work on getting the track position back."
Newman restarted the race in 23rd on lap 114, and within 10 laps, he reported that the adjustments had finally worked. The Tornados Chevrolet was better, but Newman was struggling in traffic. Although he attempted to run different lines, Newman said the car was too tight on the low line and too loose up high.
While Gibson was successful in making the car better, the poor track position continued to hamper Newman. Eighteenth was the best position he could get when the checkered flag dropped.
"For us, it's a start. This is the first race we've finished this season," said Gibson, alluding to the season-opening Daytona 500 where Newman was caught up in a crash and last week at Fontana, Calif., where the No. 39 car experienced a rare engine failure. "We just need to keep it going and improve on our finishes every week."
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished seventh. It was Stewart's second top-10 of the season and his seventh top-10 in 12 career Sprint Cup starts at Las Vegas.
Stewart continues to lead the SHR driver lineup in the championship point race, as his seventh-place finish bumped him up six spots to 11th in the Sprint Cup point standings with 386 points, 120 markers back of leader Kevin Harvick. Newman moved up four spots to 32nd in the standings with 225 points, 281 markers behind Harvick.
Jimmie Johnson won the Shelby American to score his 49th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his fourth at Las Vegas. Harvick finished 1.874 seconds behind Johnson, while Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five. Joey Logano, Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 29 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 400-mile race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the March 7 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.