A TALE OF TWO MARTINSVILLES FOR NEWMAN Tornados Driver Leads 32 Laps During Solid First Half Before Breaking Rear Gear For the first half of Sunday's TUMS Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Ryan Newman...
A TALE OF TWO MARTINSVILLES FOR NEWMAN
Tornados Driver Leads 32 Laps During Solid First Half Before Breaking Rear Gear
For the first half of Sunday's TUMS Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Ryan Newman clearly had one of the cars to beat with his No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), which led twice for 32 of the opening 127 laps of the 500-lap event around the .526-mile paperclip-shaped oval.
But on lap 247, just before the race's halfway point, Newman radioed to crew chief Tony Gibson that he had a broken rear gear. Within the next five laps, Gibson directed him to the garage, where the Tornados crew swapped transmissions and replaced the unit and driveshaft. The repair took 42 laps in all, and Newman rejoined the race in the 37th position on lap 293. He went on to pick up seven positions by the drop of the checkered flag and was credited with a 30th-place finish.
"Simply enough, good car, bad luck. That's all there is to say about it," said Newman, whose finish today ended a string of three top-seven finishes at Martinsville.
"It was a good car, we just broke a gear," added Gibson. "It's just part of it, part of this place. It's unfortunate, but the Tornados Chevrolet was good. We led some laps and I think we definitely had a top-five or a top-three car. It's unfortunate, that's all, but we made the best of it. We gained probably six or seven spots by going back out, and that's what it's all about -- not giving up and no DNFs (did not finish). The last two weeks, we've had great race cars and just had bad luck, but that goes along with this sport. That's the way it is. It's a humbling sport and it'll get you every time. But we're proud of everybody on this race team and we'll just keep digging. We'll turn this back around."
It was the second consecutive race in which Newman had to make a lengthy visit to the garage after a string of seven consecutive top-11 finishes, including six in the top-10. Last week, at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Newman needed more than 50 laps in the garage to repair damage from an accident on the second lap of the race. He ended up 31st after running some of the fastest laps of the race in the closing stretch, just as he did at Martinsville.
The opening laps in Southern Virginia proceeded on a much more promising note for Newman and the No. 39 car, all the way to the race's midpoint. From his fourth starting position, Newman worked his way up to third by lap 11, to second by lap 20 and, thanks to excellent pit work by the Tornados crew during a four-tire stop under caution on lap 50, beat early race-leader Marcos Ambrose back on track to grab the lead. Newman stayed in front for 31 laps before his car began to get tight in the center of the corner, a condition with which he couldn't prevent Jeff Burton from getting by on lap 82, and David Reutimann from getting by on lap 90. Still, Newman was able to hold down his position in the top-three for the next 68 laps until, on lap 158, Denny Hamlin took the third spot away from him.
After a fuel-and-tire stop under caution on lap 172, Newman restarted in fourth but, still fighting a slight tight condition in the center of the corner, could not fight his way to the inside and dropped back to sixth within the next several laps. He stayed in that relative position until his next stop -- a two-tire gamble under caution on lap 228 -- that dropped him back to 13th behind several cars that did not pit. Shortly thereafter came his fateful radio call reporting the broken rear gear.
Newman's SHR teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala, finished 24th.
Denny Hamlin won the TUMS Fast Relief 500 to earn his 15th career Sprint Cup victory, his series-high seventh victory of the season, and his fourth victory and 10th top-10 finish in 11 races at Martinsville. Mark Martin finished 2.318 seconds behind Hamlin in second place, while Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five. Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton and Brad Keselowski comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 15 caution periods for 90 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.
Stewart represents SHR in this year's Chase for the Championship. He came to Martinsville sixth among the top-12 drivers competing for this year's title, 177 points behind Chase leader Johnson. His 24th-place finish dropped him to seventh in points, 236 markers arrears Johnson.
Newman fell to 15th in the standings, the third-highest non-Chase driver, 127 points behind 13th-place Jamie McMurray.