Teammate Stewart is Runner-up
LOUDON, N.H. (July 17, 2011) — As Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race was winding down at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Ryan Newman was forced to perform a delicate balancing act in his No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet.
[media-credit name=”Cameras in Action” align=”alignright” width=”202″][/media-credit]He conserved fuel when he needed to and drove aggressively when he had to. The end result was Newman claiming his first victory of the season, the 15th of his career and third at the 1.058-mile New England track.
It was also the first win for Newman driving the U.S. Army-sponsored Chevrolet.
Newman, who was on the edge of having enough fuel to finish the 301-lap race, held off his teammate and team owner Tony Stewart, who made a late-race charge to finish runner-up in his No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet.
The 1-2 finish by the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) drivers mirrored the start of the race which saw Newman and Stewart start on the front row with Newman on the pole and Stewart on the outside pole.
It was the first career 1-2 start for SHR and also the first 1-2 finish for the team, which is in its third year of competition.
“We had a great weekend at Stewart-Haas Racing and I’m proud of everybody’s effort,” said Newman.
Stewart echoed Newman’s feelings.
“Man, this is one perfect weekend,” stated Stewart. “It was a sweet one-two qualifying and one-two in the race. I am so proud I can’t see straight. I’m proud of my buddy (Newman) there standing on top of his car. He deserved it.”
Driving the Soldiers’ car to Victory Lane was something Newman talked about all week. And in his many post-race interviews he made a point in each to thank the Army Strong Soldiers, who he has represented on the NASCAR circuit since the 2009 season.
“This win is for the Soldiers!” exclaimed Newman. “We appreciate all the things they have done and do. They make all the difference, and wearing their uniform gives us so much inspiration and fight. We see what our Army Strong Soldiers do every day. We hope everyone else does, too. For us to get the U.S. Army Chevrolet in Victory Lane was a goal we had way before the season ever started.”
Make no mistake, this was not one of those wins where Newman sneaked up at the end and won on fuel mileage. Quite the contrary.
Newman’s Army race car was dominant throughout the Lenox Industrial Tools 301. Newman led six different times for a race high 119 laps, including the final 72 laps. The next closest in laps led was 66 by Kurt Busch, whom Newman tenaciously fought off for the lead in the late stages of the race.
While he didn’t relinquish the lead to Busch, those last 72 laps were still a nail-biter as Newman was constantly being told by crew chief Tony Gibson to save fuel. At one point he was informed he could be as much as eight laps short.
“I never believed we were going to make it,” said Gibson. “We were definitely a solid two-to-three laps short from making it. I was hounding Ryan on the radio to save fuel. I am sure he got tired of hearing it. It was time to showcase what he can do as far as driving and saving fuel. He did an awesome job.”
The New Hampshire Motor Speedway weekend could not have gone any better for the 33-year-old Newman. He not only won the Cup race from the pole, he also won Saturday’s Whelen Modified Series race from the pole.
When asked to explain his success at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he won his first career Cup race in September 2002, Newman was candid in his answer.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” said Newman. “I’ve always said about this track is that you have to only take what it will give you. Track position is important because it’s so hard to pass here.”
To make sure that Newman and his U.S. Army Chevrolet maintained the all-important track position, Gibson’s master plan of how many tires to take during the team’s five pit stops was perfectly calculated.
Only once did Gibson call for four fresh tires. The other four times he called for two right-side tires only. The short two-tire pit stops kept Newman in striking distance.
“Our strategy was to stay up front, keep Ryan in clean air,” explained Gibson. “We knew if we could do that we had a shot to win.”
“Tony (Gibson) made one great call after another,” noted Newman. “The pit crew also did their job on pit road. It was truly a team effort, just like our Soldiers do every day.”
The victory lifted Newman from ninth to eighth-place in the driver standings. He is one point shy of seventh-place Jeff Gordon. Stewart remained 11th in points.
Following Newman and Stewart to the checkered flag were Denny Hamlin (third), Joey Logano (fourth) and Jimmie Johnson (fifth).
The Sprint Cup Series has the coming weekend off. The next race is July 31, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.