Ryan Newman and the Haas Automation team were able to use creative pit strategy in the Party in the Poconos 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway to record a fifth-place finish.
Newman started 23rd in the 43-car field and led three times for 19 laps en route to his eighth top-five finish in 23 career Sprint Cup starts at Pocono. It matched his season-best finish earned in the season-opening Daytona 500 in February at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
Newman maintained his position in the early going despite battling an extremely loose-handling racecar. Extended green-flag conditions throughout the first third of the event saw Newman continue to struggle as the field spread out on the 2.5-mile triangular racetrack.
Shortly after making a green flag pit stop at lap 58, debris on the racing surface forced NASCAR to display the caution flag. Crew chief Matt Borland made the call for Newman to stay on the track while the rest of the leaders pitted. That strategic move paid tremendous dividends for the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team, as Newman’s No. 39 was displayed at the top of the scoring pylon for the lap 70 restart. Now in clean air, the handling of Newman’s Haas Automation Chevrolet improved greatly, which allowed him to maintain position in the lead pack.
Due to being slightly off-sequence in pit stops from the rest of the leaders, fuel mileage became an issue for the Borland-led team. After making a green-flag pit stop at lap 121, Borland instructed Newman to save fuel since his car was six laps shy of making it to the scheduled distance. A late-race series of caution periods gave the crew just what it needed, as fuel economy was extended under the slowed race pace. Newman concentrated on getting the most out of his Haas Automation Chevrolet rather than conserving fuel. Running second with 20 laps remaining, Newman struggled with a series of late-race restarts but was able to persevere to bring home the No. 39 Chevrolet in the fifth position.
“We had an awesome Haas Automation Chevrolet,” Newman said. “Thanks to all the fans for coming out today. It’s good for the Quicken Loans group with their ‘Bring it Home’ sweepstakes. Five people are going to get their mortgage paid for a month as a result of this finish today. Go to QLRacing.com to find out more about that. And, obviously, it’ll be a Bloomin' Monday for everybody from Outback Steakhouse. Strategy worked out to our benefit with the yellows there at the end. Just a good rebound day for us. That is something we definitely needed as a team. Matt (Borland, crew chief) and the guys did a great job on the strategy.”
Tony Stewart led the way for SHR Sunday by finishing fourth.
Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS, scored his 12th top-five result in 29 career Sprint Cup starts at the 2.5-mile triangle. It also was his second top-five this season and his third top-10 in a row, a streak punctuated by his victory June 2 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, where Stewart earned his first win of 2013 and the 48th of his Sprint Cup career.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 29th. It was Patrick’s 24th career Sprint Cup start but her first at Pocono.
Jimmie Johnson won the Party in the Poconos 400 to score his 63rd career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his third at Pocono.
Greg Biffle finished 1.208 seconds behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., Stewart and Newman rounded out the top-five. Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 19 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 160-lap race.
With round 14 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He moved up three spots to 13th and has 378 points, 143 back of series leader Johnson and 17 points behind 10th-place Biffle. Newman gained two spots to 18th and has 363 points, 158 out of first and 32 behind Biffle. Patrick picked up one spot and is 28th place with 246 points, 275 behind Johnson and 149 away from Biffle.
Twelve races remain 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. With his victory at Dover, Stewart holds the first wild-card spot as he is the only driver between 11th and 20th in points with a victory.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished three spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 26th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Quicken Loans 400 on Sunday, June 16 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at noon.