NEWMAN PUTS FORTH GUTSY EFFORT AT SONOMA Haas Automation Driver Earns 16th-Place Finish in First Road Course Race of Season Ryan Newman picked up 10 spots in the final 15 laps of Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at...
NEWMAN PUTS FORTH GUTSY EFFORT AT SONOMA
Haas Automation Driver Earns 16th-Place Finish in First Road Course Race of Season
Ryan Newman picked up 10 spots in the final 15 laps of Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., to finish 16th. For the driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), the story of the day boiled down to two things -- tires and track position.
"Fresh tires were huge today," said Newman, who qualified 13th for the 110-lap race around the 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course. "After a few laps, the tires started falling off (time-wise) and my car just started sliding around the racetrack. With older tires, it was just really hard to get through traffic, especially since there are only a few good spots to pass on the racetrack. Our Haas Automation Chevy was pretty good -- we could just never get the track position where we could make a move on the field."
Early in the race, Newman reported to crew chief Tony Gibson that his racecar was a little loose in the esses and a little tight in the slower portions of the racetrack, but that his car had a decent balance overall. When the first caution flag of the day waved at lap 10, Newman elected to stay on the racetrack.
The team had the opportunity to work on Newman's car for the first time at lap 31, when he gave up his spot in the top-12 to pit under green. The pit crew changed four tires, added fuel, made a track bar adjustment and an air pressure adjustment to the rear tires to aid the No. 39 machine's loose-handling condition and overall lack of rear grip.
Newman returned to the track in 26th-place at lap 35. He was posting solid lap times, but struggling with grip. His car was sliding around the racetrack, and Newman complained that the rear tires were falling off very quickly, preventing him from picking up any spots in traffic.
On a restart at lap 67, Newman received minor damage in a chain-reaction accident on the frontstretch. Several drivers spun their tires on the restart, causing the majority of the field to check up. The Haas Automation Chevrolet received minor damage to the center of its grill, but the damage wasn't significant enough to cause any issues for the team.
Newman told his crew chief that he believed the key would be to have fresher tires toward the end of the race as that would benefit him the most in gaining positions in traffic.
Under the second to last caution at lap 91, Newman radioed to Gibson that he had hit the tire wall on the track twice and had knocked the car's front-end geometry out of alignment. The contact had made the racecar looser, and with the combination of old tires and plenty of race traffic, a loose racecar was making it difficult for Newman to gain any spots.
While Newman was circling the track under caution, the team realized that the No. 39 had some left-front fender damage. After a little radio debate, the team opted to pit for four fresh tires while taking the opportunity to pull out the left-front fender.
Following the pit stop, Gibson told his driver that they had made a good decision to pit under the caution as Newman's left-front tire had been cut by the fender rub. Newman restarted the race at lap 94 in the 26th-place.
A determined Newman wound his way through traffic, picking up 10 spots in the closing laps and finishing 16th.
"Newman drove his butt off in those last laps," Gibson said. "To pick up 10 spots in 15 laps and six spots in eight was pretty impressive since it had been so hard to pass all day long. It was a good effort, and I'm proud of what he did."
Teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished ninth. It was Stewart's eighth top-10 finish in 12 career Sprint Cup starts at Sonoma and his seventh top-10 of 2010.
With round 16 of 36 complete, Stewart is 10th in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He gained one spot and now has 1,983 points, 351 markers behind series leader Harvick and 108 points ahead of 13th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. Newman maintained his 15th place in the standings. He has 1,850 points and is 82 points back of 12th-place Carl Edwards, who holds the final spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship with 10 races remaining before the Chase begins.
Jimmie Johnson won the Toyota/Save Mart 350k to score his 51st career Sprint Cup victory, his fourth of the season and his first at Sonoma. It was Johnson's first road course win in 17 career starts.
Robby Gordon finished 3.105 seconds behind race winner Johnson, while Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top-five. Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Boris Said, Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 14 laps, with six drivers failing to finish.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the June 27 Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The race begins at 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at noon.