Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stewart-Haas Racing Review-Coca-Cola 600 not so kind to two Coke drivers

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Ryan Newman got caught up in someone else’s wreck and Tony Stewart faded in the closing laps to leave the two Stewart-Haas Racing drivers happy that NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, was finally over. Although both drivers are part of the Coke family of drivers, neither seemed to catch a break during the Memorial Day weekend event at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala for SHR, came into the race excited to be representing the U.S. Army on Memorial Day weekend. Earlier in the week, Newman visited soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and spoke with amputees. “I’m glad you came by,” one of the soldiers told Newman.

The U.S. Army Chevrolet driver, however, had another day where his car was just ok and his luck was bad. Newman was driving behind Mark Martin and David Gilliland when the two became entangled and Newman could not avoid plowing into the sliding cars.

“I couldn’t get the car pulled down in time and they (Martin and Gilliland) bounced off the wall and came back and got me,” Newman said. “We were just a by-product of it. We shouldn’t have been in that position, we should have been out front. Just disappointed in our day. The US Army Chevrolet was not good but the guys fought hard. Just got on the unfortunate side of an unfortunate accident."

Newman’s crew made repairs that allowed him to return to the race and gain five positions and he finished the race in the 31st spot. Newman dropped three places to 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.

Stewart had a decent day going and seemed headed for a top-10 finish. But with about 20 laps to go and running in the ninth spot, Stewart told his team the engine was not performing as he felt it should. A late-race caution extended the race beyond its scheduled 400 laps and Stewart, like several other drivers on the lead lap, was low on fuel.

On the restart for a green-white-checkered finish the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet was slow. A struggling Stewart was following the car of Jeff Burton when it spun off turn one in front of him and he had to brake to avoid hitting Burton and he lost even more spots.

"Yeah, I was a little disappointed in the beginning," Stewart said in a press conference Tuesday recalling Sunday's race. "I thought we were actually going to be able to move up through the field a lot quicker than we did. We really just maintained where we started for the most part. It seemed like the groove was right around the bottom, and it didn't seem like very many guys were able to actually move up to the high side like we were able to do at the All-Star Race."

Stewart finished 17th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race but led five laps during a green flag pit sequence. He picked up on spot in NASCAR Sprint Cup standing moving up to the ninth spot.

The Sprint Cup series heads to Kansas this week where Stewart has two wins, five top fives and seven top 10s. Newman has one win, three top fives and four top 10s there and neither driver has a Kansas pole.

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