Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Smoke Signals: Newman ends season on a strong note at Homestead-Miami


Qualifying for the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway was rough for both Stewart-Haas Racing teams, with Ryan Newman leading the way in the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala. Newman’s lap of 172.988 mph (31.216 seconds) put him 19th in the starting field, well ahead of Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet. Stewart’s lap of 171.483 mph (31.490 seconds) was good enough for only a 35th-place starting spot on the grid.

In spite of the tough day of qualifying, Newman ended the day with much to look forward to in 2013, finishing third behind winner Jeff Gordon and runner-up Clint Bowyer. Four races into his reunion with crew chief Matt Borland, Newman has four-straight top 12 finishes, including two-straight top fives. The Ford EcoBoost 400 marked the final race with the U.S. Army as the team’s primary sponsor.

“It’s a great way to send U.S. Army off,” said Newman on the SHR website. “Obviously, a win would have been better. I can’t thank the U.S. Army and all the soldiers enough. I was proud to represent them for four years and will always support them and all the military for the rest of my life. They taught me what it takes to be a soldier and possess a mental and physical strength like no other.”

Newman finished 14th in Cup Series points behind Kyle Busch. Newman had one win and 14 top 10 finishes in 2012.

Stewart ended his reign as Cup Series champ with a 17th-place finish, and 18-place pickup on his starting spot. Stewart and his team fought an ill-handling race car all day, not the way he wanted his 500th Cup Series start to go down. “We just never got the balance of the car right,” said Stewart on the SHR website post-race “Loose on exit. Tight in the center. That was the story of our day.”

Stewart finished ninth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, with three wins, 16 top ten finishes and a pole. “We didn’t have the season we wanted, but we also knew that it would be tough to duplicate the kind of run we had last year,” said Stewart. “A big part of that run was the support of some great partners that had been with Stewart-Haas Racing from the beginning – Office Depot and U.S. Army. We really appreciate all the support they gave us, and we’re proud to represent them.”

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Stewart and Newman both had congratulatory remarks for Cup Series champ Brad Keselowski and owner Roger Penske. “Congratulations to Brad and Roger Penske and everyone at Penske Racing,” said Stewart. “We know how hard it is to win a championship, and they earned this one.”

Newman, who spent nine seasons at Penske Racing before joining SHR, said, “He (Penske) deserves this probably as much as anybody else, if not more because of what he’s done for motor racing in general. His dedication to all forms of racecars is probably more than anybody else in the history of auto racing. I know this is probably one of the sweetest moments in his racing career.”

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