Stewart-Haas Racing Darlington Review—Two Top 10’s and a Winning Pit Crew

Ryan Newman in the garage at Darlington.
Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR

Both Stewart-Haas drivers got top-10 finishes at the May 7 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway  and a Stewart-Haas over-the-wall crew pitted the winning car for Furniture Row Racing’s Regan Smith. The “Lady in Black” failed to provide SHR a much-needed win, but did yield solid finishes and a good points day for both SHR teams.
After a week filled with the Montoya vs. Newman saga, created after some high-speed bumper tag at Richmond the previous week, taking on 42 other cars on a warm southern night was a much-needed distraction for Ryan Newman.

Newman was fastest during the rain-shortened first practice and qualified on the front row beside pole winner Kasey Kahne. After the green flag waved, Newman moved into the lead on lap 10 and held that lead until pit stops on lap 37. When he pitted, however, he rolled the car in the pit box and returned to the track in the seventh spot.

Newman kept losing positions and the car did not respond to the changes the team was making. “We have got to change something big when we get a caution,” Newman told his crew at lap 180 and they were eventually able to do that. Although he went a lap down at one point in the race, Newman was able to grab a fifth-place Darlington finish and move to sixth in the Sprint Cup points.

“It was a big rebound for us during the race to finish fifth,” Newman said, “but it was an even bigger rebound from the past few races and from everything that has gone on this past week and, now, going into this long stretch of races. It was a good night for us, and a nice job by (crew chief) Tony Gibson and the guys by not giving up.”

Tony Stewart, who has never won at Darlington Raceway, started the race in the ninth spot and finished the race seventh. He climbed to second and fell in behind teammate Newman when the No. 39 driver paced the field early in the race.

On lap 278, however, Stewart made a scheduled pit stop for four tires and fuel but the caution flag waved two laps later, putting him a lap down. Crew chief Darian Grubb decided to keep Stewart out on the track where he took the “wave around,” and restarted on lap 285 in 20th, the last car on the lead lap with 85 laps remaining.

“The caution that caught us out on the track – there was nothing we could do about it,” Stewart said. “But Darian and this team gave me a good car and we did the best we could with the hand we were dealt. The guys that got around us had fresher tires than us, and it showed on that last restart. This is a tough track. Seventh isn’t anything to celebrate, but we’ll take it.”

Stewart climbed three spots to seventh in the points standing, 65 behind leader Carl Edwards.

Furniture Row driver Regan Smith was the winner of the Southern 500 to claim his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win. Smith, through an alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing, uses an over-the-wall crew hired and trained by the SHR team. Team General Manager Joe Garone talked about the need for a single car team to form alliances with other teams and talked about how partners are necessary to a small team.

“Well, I think it does classify that (the little guy can win),” Team General Manager Joe Garone said. “It is part of the structure for how the little guy does business in Cup. You need partners. You need to have those relationships not just in place, but they have to be good relationships. I can't even express how good our relationship is with RCR, how well they work with us, the information flow between us. It's second to none."

Rosalie Thompson is a contributor who writes about Stewart-Haas Racing for Skirts and Scuffs and

Tony Stewart pits during Darlington Southern 500
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Stewart-Haas Racing Darlington Review—Two Top 10’s and a Winning Pit Crew Stewart-Haas Racing Darlington Review—Two Top 10’s and a Winning Pit Crew Reviewed by Rosalie Thompson on Sunday, May 08, 2011 Rating: 5