Late Restart Powers Newman to Strong Finish at Pocono
Tornados Driver Scores Seventh Top-Five of Season at ‘Tricky Triangle’
Ryan Newman struggled with a tight-handling racecar throughout Sunday’s Good Sam RV Insurance 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, but a strong restart on lap 184 vaulted the driver of the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) through the field and resulted in a fifth-place finish. It was Newman’s seventh top-five finish of 2011 and his seventh top-five in 20 career Sprint Cup starts at Pocono.
“We just couldn’t get the car to turn in (turn) three all day because it was just way too tight,” said Newman, who ran in the top-15 for much of the 200-lap race. “But Tony Gibson (crew chief) and the guys kept working on the car at each opportunity, and in the end, they had a great last pit stop and put me in position to get a top-five.
“We’ve proven time and again how hard we fight to get a good finish, and we didn’t give up again today,” he continued. “I’m just real proud of this Tornados team. It was a great points day and we’ll hit the road course next week at The Glen.”
Newman started 12th, and it wasn’t long before he told Gibson and his crew that his racecar was too tight, particularly in turn three. Despite his car’s ill-handling ways, Newman’s speeds mirrored those of the leaders and his car was solidly in the top-10.
The first caution flag of the day flew on lap 12, affording Gibson and his team the first opportunity to work on the No. 39 machine. The crew opted to make a track bar adjustment, change two tires and top off the fuel. The quick pit stop and strategy helped Newman restart in fourth place. However, after the restart, he radioed that his car was still too tight in turn three.
Still battling a tight-handling racecar, Gibson and crew took another swing at Newman’s handling issues during a green flag pit stop at lap 38. This time the crew made a wedge adjustment and added four fresh tires and fuel. While Newman reported that the changes improved the balance in turns one and two, he still couldn’t negotiate turn three the way he needed.
At each opportunity, Gibson and the crew made a variety of adjustments to the No. 39 Chevrolet in hopes of improving Newman’s tight racecar. However, the changes never went quite far enough to solve Newman’s issues in turn three of the “Tricky Triangle.”
At lap 123, the race was red flagged due to heavy rains with Newman in 10th place. Nearly two hours later, the race resumed.
Once back under the green flag, Newman brought the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet to the attention of his crew at lap 127. They made a chassis adjustment, added fuel and changed four tires. However, a slow pit stop relegated Newman to 15th for the restart.
Mired in traffic and battling a racecar that still wasn’t handling to his liking, Newman couldn’t seem to get back into the top-10 until the final restart of the day. When the final caution waved at lap 179, Newman came down pit road for two tires and fuel. He returned to the track in 11th.
When the green flag waved, Newman wasted no time making his move. On the restart, he went three-wide and powered his way past several cars in front of him. He was able to pick up six spots over the remaining 16 laps to secure a fifth-place finish.
Newman’s SHR teammate, Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala, finished 11th after rallying from a flat left-front tire that put him one lap down.
Brad Keselowski won the Good Sam RV Insurance 500 to score his third career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his first at Pocono.
Kyle Busch finished .791 of a second behind in the runner-up spot, while Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Newman rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 21 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish.
With round 21 of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR duo in the championship point standings. He remained eighth in the standings and now has 658 points, 62 markers back of series leader Edwards and 40 points ahead of 11th-place Denny Hamlin. Stewart remained ninth in the standings. He now has 642 points, which puts him 78 points behind Edwards while giving him a 24-point cushion over Hamlin.