Ryan Newman was able to overcome an early setback in the AdvoCare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway to bring his No. 39 Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS home with a fifth-place finish.
Newman started 17th in the 43-car field and made an impressive recovery after an early-race incident on pit road to bounce back for his fifth top-five finish of the 2013 season.
“I’m really proud of everyone and the job they did tonight,” Newman said after scoring his second top-five in 21 career Sprint Cup starts at Atlanta. “We got squeezed on pit road and had to make an unscheduled stop to fix the damage and change the tires. The guys did a great job getting the fenders pulled out, and I almost forgot about it (the damage) from there. We struggled a little bit with the handling; we were a little off tonight but still had a really strong Aspen Dental Chevrolet.”
After making his first pit stop of the night, Newman left his stall and wound up in a three-wide situation with a car to either side of his blue-and-white machine. Slight contact was made as the drivers battled for position, resulting in damage to both front fenders of the No. 39 Chevrolet.
After dropping to 40th following the mishap, Newman steadily climbed his way through the field at the 1.54-mile oval, breaking into the top-10 at lap 90. Despite battling a tight-handling racecar, Newman continued to pace himself among the top-10 drivers throughout the remainder of the race, inheriting the lead on two occasions during green-flag pit stops. As the laps came to a close, Newman had raced his way to the second position.
But Newman couldn’t hold his position during two late-race restarts which saw him line up on the outside line, as he dropped to eighth position. Newman fought hard to better that spot and worked his way to fifth when the checkered flag waved.
“I don’t know what the deal is, but there’s no grip on the straightaway,” Newman said. “I don’t know if it’s rubber on the racetrack or what, but you did not want to be on the outside on a restart. I apologized to the guys for having so much trouble with the restarts tonight. They gave me a really strong Aspen Dental Chevrolet. We honestly had a chance at winning the race tonight. Maybe if we didn’t have those cautions at the end, who knows? But I’m proud of the guys on this No. 39 team.”
Newman’s Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS, finished 21st. It was Patrick’s 35th career Sprint Cup start and her second at Atlanta.
Mark Martin, interim driver of SHR’s No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS as he subs for the injured Tony Stewart, finished 25th.
Kyle Busch won the AdvoCare 500 to score his 28th career Sprint Cup victory, his fourth of the season and his second at Atlanta.
Joey Logano finished .740 of a second behind Busch in the runner-up spot, while Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Newman rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 47 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 325-lap race on the 1.54-mile oval.
With round 25 of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He moved up one spot to 14th with 699 points, 138 back of series leader Jimmie Johnson and 20 behind 10th-place Kurt Busch. Patrick remained 27th with 459 points, 378 behind Johnson and 260 away from Kurt Busch.
Stewart, out of the Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for the remainder of the season, dropped to 23rd in the standings. He has 594 points, 243 out of first and 125 behind 10th-place Busch.
Just one race remains before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. If multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Kasey Kahne, who is 12th in points, has the first wild card via his two wins. Truex holds the second wild card as he is 13th in points with one victory. Newman is the only other driver between 11th and 20th with a victory.
The No. 14 car is 15th in the Sprint Cup owner standings with 696 points, 141 behind the series-leading No. 48 team of Hendrick Motorsports and 23 points behind the No. 78 team of Furniture Row Racing, which is 10th.
The No. 5 team of Hendrick Motorsports has the first wild card spot via its two wins, while the No. 56 team of Michael Waltrip Racing has the second wild card as it is the highest team between 11th and 20th with one victory. The No. 39 team of SHR (14th), the No. 14 team of SHR (15th) and the No. 55 team of Michael Waltrip Racing (18th) each have one victory and are still in contention for a wild-card spot in the chase for the owner championship.
Following next week’s race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, the owner standings will be reset, with each team getting 2,000 points. With the exception of wild-card entrants (11th- and 12th-place teams), teams also receive three bonus points for each of their respective wins during the 26-race regular season. For teams starting the Chase with identical point totals, their seed is determined by the traditional tiebreaker of best finishes beyond race victories.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished five spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 16th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Richmond. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.