Third Time is a Charm for Rocketman
Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jiimie Johnson spun after being hit by Miami's Juan Pablo Montoya. Johnson recovered to finish fifth in the race and moved to second in the Championship standings trailing Carl Edwards by seven markers (photo courtesy: Geoff Burke, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)
Ryan Newman capped off the “perfect weekend” at New Hampshire Sunday. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver conserved enough gas down the stretch to outlast teammate and team owner Tony Stewart by 0.773 second to score his 15th career Sprint Cup victory and his third Cup win at New Hampshire.
During qualifying on Friday, Newman lived up to his nickname, Rocketman, by posting a pole-winning lap for the first time in 41 races. He used the benefit of the first pit stall to gain track position throughout Sunday’s race. His final stop for fuel was on Lap 217 and Newman restarted sixth. After the ninth caution on Lap 230, Newman maneuvered past Clint Bowyer for the lead.
Newman’s first victory of the season was huge for his postseason hopes as both Stewart-Haas drivers were on the Chase bubble heading into New Hampshire. With a win in hand, Newman climbed from ninth to eighth in the standings and has the luxury of a possible wild-card berth should he fall out of the Top 10 in points after Richmond. There are seven races left to determine those drivers eligible for the Chase For The Sprint Cup which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
As Newman humbly acknowledged after ending a 24-race winless drought for Stewart Haas Racing, “This is huge for the team and even bigger for our organization.
Considering that Newman entered the race at New Hampshire ninth in the points standings, it was imperative he bolster his 11-point cushion in the battle for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Newman was able to accomplish that task by executing “the perfect weekend."
Despite Stewart closing in quickly on Newman, the driver said he was never “nervous.”
“Looking in the mirror seeing that Mobil 1 Chevy was music in my ears,” Newman said. “I know he's going to respect me, respect our situation. It never came down to it, but I'm glad that it didn't, but he was one I didn't mind seeing in my mirror.”
The win also enabled Newman to leapfrog over Dale Earnhardt Jr. for eighth place in the points standings, 16 points inside the Chase group and 66 points behind leader Carl Edwards, who finished 13th Sunday.
Speaking of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Earnhardt, the No. 88 showed signs of brilliance Sunday. But his in-race issues ranged from tire and engine issues to contact with competitors to pit-stop woes. Earnhardt was forced to start at the end of the lead-lap cars on Lap 244, restarted 33rd and gained 18 positions in the final 67 laps to finish 15th. He dropped to ninth in points.
“We got it to drive pretty good a couple of times, but, most of the time, we weren’t very good,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I think we definitely will try and start from scratch when we come back next time.”
Last year’s NASCAR Championship runner-up Denny Hamlin’s day went from disastrous to delightful as he recovered from a spin on Lap 171 to finish third at New Hampshire on Sunday.
Hamlin was running in the Top 15 when a chain-reaction incident between Miami resident Juan Pablo Montoya and AJ Allmendinger sent the No. 11 car spinning in Turn 2. Although Hamlin restarted 31st on Lap 175, he fought through the field for a third-place finish to retain 10th place in the standings.
Hamlin said it was sheer “perseverance” from his Joe Gibbs Racing team that triggered his comeback.
“It’s just risk-versus-reward racing with these fuel-mileage things. As bad as I wanted to go up there and race those guys, I had to make the smart move and finish the race.”
The conservative route allowed Hamlin to maintain 10th place in the points standings. While he and Stewart have the same number of points, Hamlin's win at Michigan gives him the advantage. There are seven races left to determine those drivers eligible for the Chase For The Sprint Cup which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
Not happy after a fifth-place finish Sunday at New Hampshire, five-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson hopes some things change soon. Johnson collided with Earnhardt earlier in the race, the pit crew missed a lug nut on Lap 217 that forced the No. 48 to return to pit road on Lap 240, then a spin late in the race after getting hit by Montoya. Still, Johnson managed to finish fifth and jumped from fifth to second in the standings, seven points behind Edwards.
“If there is anything major that has to change, we need to do it before the Chase starts,” Johnson said with seven races left before the Chase begins. “I have no clue what that means. And obviously I’m speaking from frustration with a bad day.
“We’ve been working, we’ve been patient as a group trying to mature some guys and get stuff ready. But we can’t have these mistakes anymore. We are way to close to the Chase, and we need to be right.”
Starting 28th, Johnson used pit strategy to get up front and was fifth when the caution came out on Lap 217 for debris.
It was during that caution period when Johnson had to return to pit road on lap 220 for the team to replace a missing lug nut.
Twenty laps later, he was spinning after contact with Montoya and dropped all the way back to 33rd. That allowed him to pit and then not have to worry about fuel mileage as he raced his way back to fifth.
“It started out with a bad qualifying effort on Friday and we paid the price for that on pit road and track position at the start,” Johnson said.
“Then we had some issues on pit road. And then the No. 42 [of Juan Pablo Montoya] – I don’t think of the three times he’s wrecked me it’s been intentional, but he’s out of mulligans and I’ve had enough of, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, and you’re spun out.’ It’s happened way too often.”
Defending Ford 400 winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Edwards reclaimed the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship points lead after a 13th place finish. Edwards was a popular preseason pick to unseat five-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson this fall when NASCAR crowns a Champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. Tickets for this year’s Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.