Tricky Triangle Thwarts Newman's Strategy Haas Automation/U.S. Army Driver Rallies Back to Finish 14th at Pocono Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Haas Automation/U.S. Army team ran solidly in the top-10 for much of Monday's rain-postponed Sunoco Red...
Tricky Triangle Thwarts Newman's Strategy
Haas Automation/U.S. Army Driver Rallies Back to Finish 14th at Pocono
Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Haas Automation/U.S. Army team ran solidly in the top-10 for much of Monday's rain-postponed Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. However, as a variety of pit strategies played out late in the race, Newman dropped deep in the field and was forced to battle his way back to a 14th-place finish to score his 12th top-15 of the season.
With qualifying having been rained out on Friday, Newman started seventh based on owner points, per the NASCAR rulebook. Early on in the 200-lap race, Newman reported a tight-handling condition, but the longer the run went, the looser Newman's car became.
By lap 45, Newman reported that he was loose in turn one, loose coming off of turn two, and tight in the center of turn three. Pocono's triangle-shape often proves to be a challenge when it comes to handling because all three corners are so drastically different and the racecar reacts differently to each one. With that in mind, Newman asked crew chief Tony Gibson to focus on improving the handling of the racecar in turns one and two because he couldn't hustle the racecar in turn three the way he wanted to with it being so loose.
A caution at lap 54 provided the No. 39 team the opportunity to try and improve Newman's handling issues. The team made air pressure and wedge adjustments, changed four tires and added fuel. Newman returned to the track in seventh-place. Although the changes seemed to help early on, Newman once again reported that his car was too free.
The loose-handling condition continued to plague Newman and hamper his efforts to move up in the running order throughout the race. At each opportunity, the No. 39 team pitted and adjusted on the car with air pressure, wedge and track bar in hopes of improving Newman's handling issues. The team even tried changing only right-side tires at one point. Although Newman continued to run in the top-10, the racecar was just too loose, making it difficult to drive.
When the caution flag waved at lap 143, Newman brought his car to the attention of his crew yet again for four tires, fuel and wedge and air pressure adjustments. Because many teams elected to take only right-side tires, Newman fell back in the running order and restarted in 21st-place. Gibson told Newman he believed the earlier two-tire stop had caused the team to get behind on the adjustments that needed to be made to help the car with the changing track conditions.
Following the pit stop, Newman told this crew that the changes to the car had paid off. At lap 157 while running in 17th-place, Newman reported the car was "much better" but that he had "no track position" to go with it.
As the race wound down, Newman narrowly avoided several wrecks and survived multiple run-ins with the track wall and other cars as the three-wide racing heated up. At one point, Newman fell as low as 28th after a competitor pushed him into the turn two wall. However, Newman was determined to make up the lost ground. With his car handling better, the South Bend, Ind., native was able to rebound and finish 14th.
"I think we got behind with our track position strategy, and it ended up hurting us in the finishing order," Newman said. "We tried a two-tire stop early, and because of that we got a little bit off on our adjustments and how the track changed during the race. I really think we had a better car than 14th-place. It's just something that we will have to work on."
Newman's Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate and owner, Tony Stewart, finished 10th and remains atop the championship point standings, as his 17th top-10 finish of the season expanded his lead to 197 points over second-place Jimmie Johnson. Newman dropped two spots to fall to ninth in the standings, 561 points out of first. Newman is now 165 points over 13th-place with just five races left before the 12-driver Chase for the Championship.
Denny Hamlin beat Juan Pablo Montoya by .869 of a second to win the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500. It was his fifth career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his third at Pocono.
Finishing third was Clint Bowyer, while Sam Hornish Jr. and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five. Brian Vickers, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Stewart comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 39 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 500-mile race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Aug. 9 Heluva Good! at The Glen road course race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.