SOLID EFFORT NETS SIXTH-PLACE FINISH FOR NEWMAN Haas Automation Driver Earns Sixth Top-10 of 2010, Inches Closer to Top-12 in Points Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Haas Automation team championed their "Never Give Up" mantra again in Sunday's Lenox...
SOLID EFFORT NETS SIXTH-PLACE FINISH FOR NEWMAN
Haas Automation Driver Earns Sixth Top-10 of 2010, Inches Closer to Top-12 in Points
Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Haas Automation team championed their "Never Give Up" mantra again in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, as they notched a solid sixth-place finish and inched ever closer to a berth in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship.
"That's probably the longest green-flag run we've had here in a couple of years," said Newman about the 301-lap race which went caution-free for a 201-lap span. "It was just a good fight back. I think we dropped back to 14th at one point, and when you can fight back from 14th to sixth at Loudon, it was some good strategy and a good racecar."
Newman's sixth top-10 of the season moved him up one spot in the championship standings to 14th. He is now just 15 points behind Carl Edwards, who holds the final spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship with nine races remaining before the Chase begins.
"We're proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas," Newman added. "Our teammate Tony (Stewart, finished second) had a good car and a great, strong run there at the end. For us, on the inside line on that last restart, we just didn't have what it took. Our Haas Automation Chevrolet was still just a little too loose on that last run."
After a strong fifth-place qualifying effort and two good practices on Saturday, the No. 39 Haas Automation team felt confident heading into Sunday's race. After all, Newman has been a solid performer at the 1.058-mile oval during the past eight seasons, and he was piloting a proven racecar -- the same No. 39 Chevy that he won with earlier this season at Phoenix International Raceway.
After starting fifth, Newman slid back into the sixth spot where he stayed for the first 35 laps. He radioed crew chief Tony Gibson that his car was a little loose going into the turns and a little loose coming off of the corners, but that his biggest issue was that he was just a little too tight in the center of the turns to drive through them the way he wanted.
At lap 35 during the race's first caution, Newman pitted for four tires, fuel and a minor track bar adjustment in hopes of helping the car's rotation through the track's corners. While Newman's No. 39 team opted to take on four fresh Goodyears, other teams chose to just take right-side tires. The differing pit strategies meant Newman would restart the race in 11th.
Following that first caution, the race stayed under the green flag for 201 laps. Newman held his position inside the top-15 the entire time. For the South Bend, Ind., native, the biggest hurdle to overcome throughout the race was his car's tight handling condition in the center of the corners. From the drop of the green flag, he told Gibson that he felt his car would a solid performer if they could make it "rotate better through the center."
Gibson and his team devised a plan to help Newman's handling woes. Under the long, green-flag run, the team pitted two separate times. Each time, the pit crew changed four tires, added fuel and made a wedge adjustment. Following each pit stop, Newman's car improved and began rotating through the corners more to his liking.
With the turning ability of the No. 39 improving throughout the race, Newman was able to move back into the top-10 by lap 250. He was steadily gaining on the leaders and moving up the running order when the caution flag waved at lap 281. Newman told Gibson that he was still too tight through the center, but that he had also been getting a little loose off the corners.
With just 20 laps remaining, Newman brought his No. 39 Haas Automation Chevy to the attention of his pit crew for right-side tires and an air pressure adjustment. Newman returned to the track in the eighth-place for the restart.
Just two laps later, Newman had to dive to the low groove of the racetrack to narrowly avoid the spinning cars of Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton, who had gotten into one another in turn three. With his quick reaction time, Newman was able to avoid any damage and move into the fifth spot on the track by the time the caution flag waved at lap 289.
However, restarting on the inside line put Newman at a disadvantage, as he lost one spot at the drop of the green flag, hence the sixth-place finish.
Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished second. It was Stewart's 12th top-five finish in 23 career Sprint Cup starts at New Hampshire and his fourth of 2010. It was also his fifth top-10 finish in the last six races -- three of which have been top-five results -- June 6 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway (third), June 13 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (fifth) and Sunday at New Hampshire.
With round 17 of 36 complete, Stewart is ninth in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He gained one spot and now has 2,158 points, 331 markers behind series leader Harvick and 141 points ahead of 13th-place Earnhardt. Newman has 2,005 points and is 15 points back of 12th-place Edwards.
Jimmie Johnson won the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 to score his 52nd career Sprint Cup victory, his fifth of the season and his third at New Hampshire.
Stewart finished .753 of a second behind Johnson, while Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Harvick rounded out the top-five. Newman, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano and A.J. Allmendinger comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were four caution periods for 19 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish the 301-lap race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the July 3 Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.