NEWMAN NETS SEASON'S FIRST TOP-FIVE AT MARTINSVILLE Haas Automation Driver Finishes Fourth, Moves Up Four Spots in the Points Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Haas Automation team came away from Martinsville (Va.) Speedway with a much needed top-five...
NEWMAN NETS SEASON'S FIRST TOP-FIVE AT MARTINSVILLE
Haas Automation Driver Finishes Fourth, Moves Up Four Spots in the Points
Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Haas Automation team came away from Martinsville (Va.) Speedway with a much needed top-five finish following Monday's rain-postponed Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
A key call by crew chief Tony Gibson for Newman to stay on the track following a caution period at lap 491 moved the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver from fifth-place to third on the restart at lap 496. Newman made quick work passing Matt Kenseth and settled into the runner-up spot behind Jeff Gordon. However, the caution flag flew at lap 498 setting up a green-white-checkered finish, which extended the race eight laps past its originally scheduled 500-lap distance.
Newman, who was on older tires than the cars directly behind him, did everything he could to hold on to his second-place position, but he got shuffled out of the groove and lost two positions. He was posted in fourth-place when the checkered flag flew. It was Newman's first top-five finish of the 2010 season, his third consecution top-10 at Martinsville and his sixth-top five in 17 career Sprint Cup starts at the paperclip-shaped oval.
"It was just a great run for the Haas Automation Chevrolet," Newman. "We needed a top-five as a team. The guys did a good job in the pits all day. I was just unlucky on the outside there on the last restart. To get a top-four out of that and on older tires, I can't complain. Jeff (Gordon) couldn't hold his line on the bottom, and he opened the door for everybody. Denny (Hamlin) drilled me in the bumper going into one and two. I'm amazed we got it back to the start/finish line.
"We've been trying to make improvements over last year. We were sixth here in the spring last year, and this year we were fourth. It was a good points day for us, which is obviously important to us. It was a much needed top-five for our team."
Newman, who topped the speed charts in practice on Friday, was relegated to a 26th place starting spot after qualifying was rained out and the field was set by owner points per the NASCAR rulebook . But having to start deep in the field didn't discourage Newman and his SHR team who have had a strong short track program.
Under the first caution flag at lap 41, which NASCAR deemed as a competition caution due to the extensive rainfall over the past day, Newman told Gibson that his car was too tight from the center of the turn through the exit of the corner, especially in turn four. Newman, who was in 26th place, told his crew chief that his car needed a "pretty big change" to help it drive off of turn four better. Newman pitted for four tires, fuel and air pressure and wedge adjustments and returned to the track in 26th place.
A caution just 20 laps later gave the team a second opportunity to help the car's still tight-handling condition. Newman said the car was definitely better and the changes had helped, but he didn't have anywhere to go on the track. On the second pit stop, the pit crew made another wedge adjustment, changed right side tires and added fuel. The quick pit stop put Newman back on track in 23rd.
The quick work in the pits helped Newman get past some of the traffic he was having difficulty passing on the track. By lap 130, Newman had moved into the top-15. The Haas Automation crew continued to work on his car under caution periods, making a variety of wedge, track bar and air pressure adjustments. The team also opted to change just two tires under caution at lap 162, which moved Newman into fifth place. The pit call moved Newman into the top-10 for the first time, and he didn't look back for the remainder of the 508-lap event.
With solid pit stops and key adjustments throughout the course of the race, which continually made Newman's car better and helped him gain track position, Newman's No. 39 Chevy solidly raced in the top-10 all day.
At lap 475, Newman was in eighth. Just 15 laps later, he had gotten by two cars and his No. 39 Chevy was sitting in sixth. At lap 491, the caution flag waved when second-place Jeff Burton hit the wall, moving Newman into the fifth spot. Gibson told Newman to stay out even while a couple of the leaders and a chain of cars behind him elected to come down pit road for fresh tires.
Despite having older tires than most of the cars behind him, Newman moved up into the second spot and was in position to battle for the win when the final caution flag of the day waved at lap 498 -- setting up the final green-white-checkered run and Newman's fourth-place result.
"I couldn't ask for anything more, especially since we were on the outside and on older tires," said Gibson after the race. "This is the just the momentum, the spark that we needed."
"Working our way up to the front, that was a lot of fun," Newman added. "I just had an unlucky spot on that last restart. I don't think anybody could have done it from the outside on the front row with old tires."
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala and Newman's teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, finished 26th.
Hamlin won the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 to score his ninth career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his third at Martinsville.
Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Joey Logano, finished .670 of a second behind in the runner-up slot. Jeff Gordon finished third, while Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 13 caution periods for 79 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the race.
With round six of 36 complete, Stewart is eighth in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He fell three spots and now has 770 points, 128 markers behind new series leader Johnson. Newman gained four positions to climb to 22nd in the standings. He has 612 points and is 286 points back of Johnson.
The Sprint Cup Series takes a weekend off in honor of Easter before heading to Phoenix International Raceway for the April 10 Subway Fresh Fit 600k.