Stewart-Haas Racing Review - Newman shines on Kentucky Restarts, Stewart struggles

The field takes the green flag at the inaugural Kentucky Speedway race
Andy Lyons/Getty Images for NASCAR

Ryan Newman led the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) duo in the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway on July 9 when he crossed the finish line in the fourth spot. It was the fifth top-5 finish of 2011 for the driver of the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet Impala.

Although the race will likely be remembered as the one where many fans with tickets listened on their car radios while sitting in a massive traffic jam, it could also be remembered as the one that helped Newman shake off the disappointment of last weekend’s Coke Zero 400 to propel the No. 39 closer towards making the Chase.

Newman started the race 18th after qualifying was rained out (the starting order was determined by practice speed) but he struggled with the balance of his race car, at one point going a lap down.

He stayed out during a caution on lap 140 to get back on the lead lap and a lucky break helped him stay there when a caution came out at lap 203, right before he was planning to pit.

Newman made a three-second pit stop for a splash of fuel on lap 251 before two more cautions flew. Although both Stewart-Haas drivers have struggled at times on restarts this year, when the Kentucky race restarted for the final time on lap 265, Newman made his biggest move - driving from seventh to fourth in the final two laps. 

“It was a good last restart,” Newman said. “We struggled today and got a lap down. The Tornados Chevrolet was a little off balance-wise, but Tony Gibson and the guys did a good job getting it back right. Then we got a really good break there when the No. 1 (McMurray) car blew up and got us back in a better (pit) cycle. We just had the right strategy from there on out. We had better tires and better fuel opportunities. I’m just proud of the last restart – I did what I had to do, kept it clean and it was a good points day for us, too.”

Frustrating restarts did not escape SHR driver/owner Tony Stewart who finished 12th. “We just couldn’t get going on the restarts,” Stewart said. “Beyond frustrating.”

On two late-race restarts – one on lap 260 and another on lap 264 – the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 “Back-to-School” Chevrolet Impala was not as quick as the other cars.

“We were good late in a run – our laps times were just as good, if not better than, the leaders,” Stewart said. “But that didn’t help us at the end.”

With 18 of 36 races complete, Newman leads SHR in the championship point standings. He moved up one spot to ninth and now has 538 points, 86 behind race winner Kyle Busch who took over the points lead at Kentucky and 11 points ahead of 11th-place Stewart, who gained one spot.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Loudon) on July 17. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at noon.
Stewart-Haas Racing Review - Newman shines on Kentucky Restarts, Stewart struggles Stewart-Haas Racing Review - Newman shines on Kentucky Restarts, Stewart struggles Reviewed by Rosalie Thompson on Monday, July 11, 2011 Rating: 5