Ryan Newman and the Quicken Loans team were able to overcome an ill-handling racecar in the first half of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and turn what looked like a long night into a sixth-place finish.
After Newman’s disappointing finish last week in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team made drastic changes to the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS at the shop in the week leading up to the race as well as throughout Sunday night to allow Newman to score his sixth top-10 finish of the season and his ninth top-10 in 25 career Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte. Newman was quick to praise the outstanding work of the team.
Newman started the race from the 10th position, but he struggled early with a tight-handling racecar that saw him drop to as low as 31st and off the lead lap in the first 100 miles of the Sprint Cup Series’ longest race. A timely caution at lap 115 saw Newman in the “lucky dog” position – where the first car one lap down gets its lap back during a caution.
Not long after, a rope, which was part of a camera system suspended over the speedway, snapped and fell on the racing surface. The race was suspended for approximately 30 minutes before NASCAR gave the teams a 15-minute break to make repairs if their cars were damaged from the incident. Fortunately, Newman’s Quicken Loans Chevrolet was not damaged, but the Matt Borland-led team was able to take advantage of the break to make significant adjustments to their racecar that would pay dividends for the team when the race restarted.
As green-flag conditions dominated much of the second half of the event, Newman slowly worked his way toward the front. A late-race series of caution periods gave the crew a handful of opportunities to make additional, minor adjustments to their Quicken Loans machine, and Newman took advantage by working his way to the third position. In the closing laps, debris on the frontstretch forced NASCAR to display the caution flag. Crew chief Borland and Newman agreed to come to pit road to take on right-side tires to give themselves the best chance at scoring a top-five finish. While the move proved to be the one to make, Newman could not maintain the third position and fell back to sixth when the checkered flag waved.
“We had a really good Quicken Loans Chevrolet at the end of the race,” said Newman. “If that yellow hadn’t come out, we would have probably ended up third. We took two tires under caution and couldn’t quite get back to where we were. That is a great comeback after going a lap down early, and considering where we were one week ago here for the All-Star Race. The Quicken Loans guys did a great job. Tony (Stewart) had a great run, too. It was a solid night for Stewart-Haas Racing.”
Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for SHR, finished seventh after leading once for six laps. It was his 13th top-10 in 29 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile oval and his second top-10 this season.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 29th. It was Patrick’s 22nd career Sprint Cup start and her second at Charlotte.
Kevin Harvick won the Coca-Cola 600 to score his 21st career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Charlotte.
Kasey Kahne finished 1.49 seconds behind Harvick in the runner-up spot, while Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano rounded out the top-five. Newman, Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Marcos Ambrose comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 11 caution periods for 61 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish the 400-lap race. The race was delayed three times for separate incidents which forced NASCAR to display the red flag. The first two of the three red-flag periods were for a camera cable that fell on the track and caused damage to a handful of cars. The first red flag was displayed for 10 minutes and 40 seconds with the second following quickly after the first and lasting 16 minutes and 22 seconds. The third red flag was displayed for an accident on lap 327, delaying the racing action for nine minutes and 13 seconds.
With round 12 of 36 complete, Newman continues to lead the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He rose one spot to 16th and has 315 points, 130 back of series leader Jimmie Johnson and 20 points behind 10th-place Brad Keselowski. Stewart also gained one spot to crack the top-20. He is 20th with 291 points, 154 out of first and 44 behind Keselowski. Patrick lost two positions and is now 30th with 211 points, 234 behind Johnson and 124 away from Keselowski.
Fourteen 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.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 15 spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 14th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks on Sunday, June 2 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 12:30 p.m.