Sprint Cup - Newman Race Report
Bristol, Mar. 19, 2012: Ryan Newman felt like his No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet Impala was one of the cars to beat in the Food City 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, but a tight-handling racecar hampered his efforts on the racetrack and led to a disappointing 12th-place finish.
“I feel like we let one slip away today,” said Newman, who has six finishes of 12th or better in seven starts at Bristol with his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team. “We were better all weekend than a 12th-place finish, that’s for sure. That’s definitely not what we wanted today. Our Quicken Loans Chevy was fast off the truck, and we were strong all weekend. The guys did good in the pits, and they worked hard all day. But we just could never adjust on it the way we needed. We were just way too tight.”
After qualifying third Friday and ending practice Saturday as the fastest car, Newman was confident heading into the 500-lap race Sunday afternoon at Bristol. But while running third early in the race, Newman reported a tight-handling condition in the corners to crew chief Tony Gibson.
A caution at lap 25 afforded the team its first opportunity to try to fix Newman’s tight-handling condition. But with only a handful of laps completed, many of those during a side-by-side battle with Jeff Gordon, Newman told Gibson he preferred to make no chassis changes and see what happened. The crew changed right-side tires and added fuel.
While the pit stop was flawless, the tight confines of pit road at the .533-mile racetrack which can often make entering and exiting tricky hurt Newman.
Newman’s No. 39 team was positioned in the final pit stall on the frontstretch. With cars coming around the tight corner from the backstretch pit road, Newman took a cautious approach exiting his box to avoid pit road incidents. While he didn’t get hit, Newman’s car was boxed in twice as other cars pulled in and out of their pit boxes in front of him, causing Newman to drop to 13th in the running order on the restart.
From there, Newman’s day didn’t improve. He battled a tight-handling racecar for most of the afternoon.
“I was so tight; I just couldn’t turn the car,” Newman said. “And it didn’t matter what adjustments we made, it didn’t get any better.”
At each opportunity, the crew made wedge and air pressure adjustments to aid the ill-handling racecar, but nothing seemed to improve the issue. Newman continued to have difficulty turning. The difficulties caused Newman to lose a lap to the leaders just past the midway point of the 500-lap race.
Despite being a lap down and struggling with a car that wouldn’t turn well, Newman and his crew refused to give up. Newman fought to keep himself the first car one lap down, and he was awarded the “Lucky Dog” when the caution waved at lap 361, which put him back on the lead lap.
But the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevy was still too tight and still not turning the way Newman needed it to in order to gain any positions on the racetrack. By lap 467, Newman had once again fallen one lap down to the leaders. Newman kept himself in the position to get a second “Lucky Dog” award, and a caution just 12 laps later gave him one more opportunity to get back on the lead lap for the closing laps of the race.
Newman came down pit road, and his crew made additional wedge and air pressure adjustments, and changed four tires and added fuel. Newman restarted in 14th place at lap 484. He was able to gain two more spots in the final laps of the race to finish 12th.