Sunday, October 14, 2012

Smoke Signals: Stewart fights back for a 13th-place finish at Charlotte

Ryan Newman led the way for Stewart-Haas Racing in qualifying at Charlotte Motor Speedway, posting a quick time of 193.251 mph (27.943 seconds) in the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet Impala, good for third-place on the field in the Bank of America 500; Newman was one of three drivers, along with pole sitter Greg Biffle and Mark Martin, to break the old track record of 193.216 mph. The boss, however, didn’t have as good a time on Thursday night at NASCAR’s home track, as Tony Stewart qualified 32nd in the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet with a speed of 189.587 mph (28.483 seconds).

Newman's Quicken Loans/Ninja Turtles No. 39 in the pits
Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts & Scuffs
During Friday’s “happy hour” practice session, Newman had engine issues, forcing the team to change the engine in the No. 39 and relinquish its third-place starting spot. Prior to the engine problem, Newman was 19th-quick in the final session, while Stewart ran 12th.

Dropping to the back of field was the No. 39 team’s undoing from the start, as Newman fought handling issues throughout the evening and couldn’t make up the spots he lost with the engine change. Just past the midway point of the race, Newman was a lap down to the field and never recovered, recording a 20th-place finish.

“We definitely took a hit with the engine change,” said Newman on the SHR website. “We had a really fast Quicken Loans Chevrolet in practice and in qualifying here at Charlotte, and it wasn’t the same in the race. Losing that practice on Friday night because of the engine hurt us, too, because we never quite got the car to handle the way I needed it to so that I could make up the ground that we had lost having to start in the back. It was a tough night for us. We had the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the car this weekend, and it would have been nice to get them and Quicken Loans in victory lane tonight.”

Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR/Chris Graythen
Stewart made up for his poor qualifying effort with a 13th-place finish, this in spite of early problems on track. The nose of Stewart’s Chevrolet was damaged during a chain-reaction incident on Lap 16, resulting in three pit stops to repair the damage; quick work by the No. 14 crew kept their driver on the lead lap.

“I was following the 2 car (Brad Keselowski) there, and he had to check up, big time, for whatever was going on in front of him,” said Stewart on the SHR website. “Man, I drilled him. And the further back you were, the worse it made it. It really screwed up the nose of our racecar.”

Stewart would restart 36th following the repairs, but climbed as high as eighth in the field as he made up lost ground. Going into fuel conservation mode at the end of the race dropped Stewart back to 13th.

Stewart dropped one spot to eighth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, 50 points back of leader Brad Keselowski. Newman remained 14th in points, 62 points behind 13th-place Kyle Busch.

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