Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ryan Newman wins the Goody's Fast Relief 500


Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Kasey Kahne looked to Martinsville for a fresh start. After winning the pole award on Saturday, Kahne started the race in first but quickly lost the lead to Kevin Harvick. Kahne's car was looking strong on the start. He was able to maintain a top-5 spot until the midpoint of the race but something was amiss in the engine. Kahne had to bring the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet into the garage so his team could check the engine and he fell 57 laps behind.

Kahne's Hendrick Motorsports teammates were also on a good streak today. Jeff Gordon led laps and Dale Earnahrdt Jr. moved quickly to the front.

Shortly after returning to the track, Kahne spun out after smoke poured out of the exhaust pipe - his engine blew and he had to pull into the garage for the end of the race.

Most believe the No. 5 car  is doomed, others believe it’s beginners' (new team) bad luck. Kahne is optimistic.

"We had a great Hendrickcars.com Chevy. Really fast and the best I had ever been here," he said after climing out of the No. 5 car. "Engine was great and we were battling a little loose. We needed another pit stop to get that right and we could battle with Jeff (Gordon)."

Kahne continued, "It was fun driving and we had a small engine problem that turned into a big one on the backstretch and just shut off and I had oil on my tires when I hit pit road. I just didn't want to oil the whole surface for all the guys out there so I just shot to the pits and it went spinning and it wasn't a big because I didn't hit anything."
Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

Other notable drivers early on in today's race were Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.

Seven cautions slowed the pace of the race, including caution flags for the No. 18 of Kyle Busch at Lap 199 and the No. 42 of Juan Pablo Montoya spinning out at Lap 265. This was the fewest number of cautions since September 22, 1996.

At Lap 356 Jimmie Johnson moved into the lead passing Denny Hamlin, Gordon followed to take second, with Hamlin holding off Earnhardt Jr. for third.

Hamlin was the biggest threat for the HMS boys. "Smoke" came out of the pit road in second, suddenly becoming the threat for the lead.

In the closing laps, Earnhardt Jr. held on to third, and then with three laps to go, David Reutimann stalled on the frontstretch to set up a green-white-checker finish.

The leaders from the HMS camp stayed out; Johnson and Gordon opted for track position versus fresh tires.

When the green flag dropped, Ryan Newman charged forward from around the fifth position, bumping Bowyer (running in 3rd) and caused a wreck. Johnson spun out and hit the wall, Gordon spun out, Earnhardt Jr. was also caught but was able to move ahead. Bowyer also sustained damage and lost position after being pushed to the high side.

Newman and AJ Allmendinger were in the lead for the restart, Earnhardt was in third, they fought for the lead but the "Rocket Man" prevailed. (Reminder: claim your free blooming onion at Outback tomorrow by mentioning Ryan Newman!) 

“He gave me the opportunity to beat him there on the outside there, but we weren't turning good enough in the center there on the restart. You know, we had a shot at it and that's all you can ask for,” Allmendinger said afterwards.

Why didn’t he wreck Newman? “I don’t want to win like that,” he responded, "That's not the way I want to win a race. He did everything clean on the restart."

Newman won the race, his first victory in 2012, and at Martinsville. It’s his 11th top-10 finish in 25 races at Martinsville.

Today also marked an anniversary: Alan Kulwicki died 19 years ago today. Newman's crew chief Tony Gibson worked with Kulwicki. A reporter asked, “What does this mean to you to win this race on the anniversary of the day we lost Alan Kulwicki?”

“Yeah, I thought a lot about that last night actually, and it means a lot,” said Gibson. “I’m where I’m at because of Alan.”

Gibson went on to compare Newman with Kulwicki, “he’s just like Alan. He’s just like him. He’s wicked smart and when you ever try to catch him on something, he’s got a little bit better answer for you, so I don’t do that anymore.”

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