NEWMAN CLAIMS PHOENIX VICTORY THANKS TO BOLD PIT CALL Tornados Driver Rolls to First Win at Stewart-Haas Racing Last fall, Ryan Newman unveiled his No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet in victory lane at Phoenix International Raceway. On Saturday night, ...
NEWMAN CLAIMS PHOENIX VICTORY THANKS TO BOLD PIT CALL
Tornados Driver Rolls to First Win at Stewart-Haas Racing
Last fall, Ryan Newman unveiled his No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet in victory lane at Phoenix International Raceway. On Saturday night, Newman brought his partnership with the maker of bold, rolled snacks full circle as he returned the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet to Phoenix's victory lane, this time in official fashion by celebrating a thrilling win in the Subway Fresh Fit 600k.
Newman took the lead from four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon on the final restart of the race and held on to the top spot for the final two laps around the 1-mile oval to score his first win driving for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). And while it was Newman's 14th career Sprint Cup victory, it was his first since winning the 2008 Daytona 500, a span of 77 races.
"I thought we had a good car in practice, but I've got to thank Tornados for coming on board and helping us out with what Tony Stewart and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing has provided for us," said Newman, who became the first driver ever to pilot the No. 39 car to victory lane in Sprint Cup competition. "I've got to thank the fans and U.S. Army, Haas Automation, Sprint, Chevrolet and Coca-Cola. Man, we've been working so hard for those guys to get into victory lane. It's been a long time coming for me, too. I'm missing my mom and dad right now. They're back home taking care of my grandfather. Man, I couldn't believe it. I saw the right flag and I'm like, I ain't got that far to go!"
It was a bold pit call on the final caution of the night that put Newman in position to capture the win and his first at Phoenix, as well as crew chief Tony Gibson's first win at the helm of a Sprint Cup team.
Newman was running in the fifth position when the caution flag waved at lap 372, setting up a green-white-checkered finish. After an animated discussion on the radio as Newman and Gibson debated their options, the two decided to pit for right-side tires only while many of the front-runners opted instead for four fresh Goodyears.
Newman returned to the track in second-place and restarted beside Gordon on the inside line. With the drop of the green flag, Newman wasted no time making his move. He quickly drove past Gordon, took the point and didn't look back until the checkered flag waved.
"I kind of threw Gibson under the bus because he wanted to put four on and I said, 'Just give me two, I like the track position,'" Newman said. "I would rather block. I was in a good position there, obviously. I restarted on the bottom side earlier in the night and could not get going a couple of times. So on two tires I was kind of impressed. We had a lot of guys behind us on two tires, so it was a good situation to be in.
"Every restart I'd been on the inside and I couldn't get going. But I held my line and got a good shot off of turn two and it was all we needed. Track position was real important. I think the two tires were a good call because the track cooled off and there was a little more grip with two tires. Two tires earlier in the day weren't good enough. Gibson and everybody did a great job. We've come so far as a team. To get to this point, obviously, is a great thing."
For Newman and the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet, their first victory as a team was a result of hard work and a "don't quit" attitude, attributes which helped them land a spot in the coveted Chase for the Championship last season.
Newman started in 14th-place for Saturday's night race and moved into the top-10 after just two laps. When the first caution flag of the afternoon came out at lap 14, Newman was still in 10th-place. Newman told Gibson that his biggest issue was that he was a little free getting into turn one and a little snug in the center of turns three and four. Newman & Company decided to pit for right-side tires, fuel and track bar and air pressure adjustments. He started the race in first-place and led the field for one lap under green before being overtaken by teammate Stewart.
Despite having only two fresh tires while most of the field had four, Newman was able to maintain his spot among the top-10.
Throughout the race, Newman's biggest obstacle continued to be his handling. He complained of getting too tight over the course of the run. His No. 39 Chevy was consistently a little free off the corner and a little too tight in the center of turns three and four.
Gibson continued to work on Newman's car at each opportunity. By the mid-point of the race and just as the sun dipped behind the grandstands, the No. 39 crew found the right combination of air pressure and wedge adjustments that best suited the Tornados machine, which helped move Newman from his spot in the top-10 to a position within the top-five.
"We knew yesterday that the car was pretty good. We didn't think it was a winning car, but it was a decent top-10 car," Gibson said. "So we tried to work on it and tried to keep up with the racetrack. And that was my biggest concern -- not being able to keep up with the racetrack. But Ryan and I did a good job communicating tonight. His feedback was awesome, and that's half the battle. When you get the right information and we work together like we've been working the last couple of weeks, things just kind of flow.
"So for me it was just talking to Ryan and figuring out what we needed to do with the car, making sure we made the right adjustments because you don't get many times to pit here. We made the right adjustments and here we are."
In the end, it was Newman and Gibson's final pit stop and mutual decision to pit for two tires that led to the biggest night of their partnership since they teamed up at SHR.
"I don't know if I have enough words," Newman said. "But the last restart, I didn't really know what to expect. The inside, from what I had seen, hadn't been the ideal lane all day. I'm not sure if Jeff (Gordon) didn't get a great restart. I didn't feel I did, but it was just the right place at the right time. Two tires paid off, clean air, and the track picked up so much grip as we went there, and it was just right time, right place. I've got to thank Tornados and Chevrolet and the U.S. Army and Haas Automation and Coca Cola and Kraft and Gillette and all the people that have stood by us. It was a long time coming for me personally, 77 races, but to see Tony (Stewart) win so many races last year and be so close but not get that victory, this is really awesome for us and our team."
For Gibson, the win was equally special as many of the No. 39 crew members have been with him for a number of years and followed him to SHR in 2009.
"It's pretty big," Gibson said. "A lot of those guys were in tears in victory lane, because most of us have been together for nine years. We won with Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., and it had been a long stretch since we'd won a race. We had come close, but we didn't make it happen. So it was pretty exciting for those guys. And I'm more happy and more proud for those guys than for myself because I feel like those guys have followed me wherever I've gone. I feel like I owe it to them to see those guys hopping up and jumping up and down. It just brings back memories. It's awesome."
Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala Sfor HR, finished 23rd.
Stewart continues to lead the SHR driver lineup in the championship point race. He fell one spot to ninth in the point standings and now has 869 points, 204 markers behind series leader Johnson. Newman vaulted six positions to climb to 16th in the standings. He has 802 points and is 271 points back of Johnson.
Finishing .130 of a second behind Newman was Gordon, while Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top-five. Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 59 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 378-lap race.