Flyin Ryan Is Back
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Ryan Newman, once dubbed, “The Rocket Man,” because of the number of poles he won in a single season, flew by Jeff Gordon on a green-whitecheckered restart at Phoenix to break a 77-race Cup winless streak.
“I saw the white flag, and I was like I don’t have that far to go,” said Newman. “On every restart when I was on the inside, I couldn’t get going. But on that last one I got going, held my line, and that was all we needed. It was just the right time, right place.
“This is the most emotional win of my career.”
Capitalizing on a late caution that extended the race three laps past its scheduled distance of 375 laps, Ryan Newman and crew chief Tony Gibson snatched victory from Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch with a two-tire call under the final caution.
Both Busch and Johnson took four tires on Lap 373, under caution for Scott Riggs’ blown tire in Turn 4 one lap earlier. Gordon, who took two tires and left pit road with the lead, spun his tires on the decisive restart on Lap 377, allowing Newman to surge into the top spot.
For the second consecutive race Jeff Gordon finished in the runner-up spot.
“I just spun the tires on that last restart,” said Gordon. “I knew it was over by the time we got to Turn 1.”
Johnson charged from seventh to third during the green-white-checkered-flag finish. Mark Martin, also on two tires for the final restart, ran fourth, one position ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya. Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano completed the top 10.
Busch and Johnson had dominated the two long green-flag runs that preceded the two-lap dash to the finish. In fact, Busch, who tied Johnson for most laps led with 113, stayed out front from the time he passed Johnson on Lap 262 until Riggs’ accident 110 laps later.
“I can’t freaking believe this,” Busch shouted on the radio to crew chief Dave Rogers when the ninth and final yellow flag flew. “What do you want to do?”
Busch and Rogers opted for four tires. Busch restarted 8th, too far back to even challenge the leaders.
Johnson made the same call for his No. 48 team.
“I was excited to see the caution come out, because it was an opportunity to win,” Johnson said. “I decided I made the call for four tires. It’s the first time that I can remember in a long time that I actually said what I wanted for a pit stop, with the way Martinsville played out and Bristol and last night’s (Nationwide) race (where four-tire calls proved successful). I knew with the green-white checkered there weren’t a lot of laps, but I felt we might get a caution with everybody racing so hard.
“So I made the call for four and made the most of it. We got from seventh to third and just did what we could. So, not a bad night at all. Excited to see us stretch out the points a little bit and get another top-five finish here.”
Racing for the first time since March 31 surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, Denny Hamlin completed the race in 30th place, two laps down.
Asked after the race if he was in pain, Hamlin replied, “More than I can tell you. I’m pretty sure I didn’t do any damage or anything like that, but I’m absolutely exhausted right now.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 12th and held on to 10th in the Cup standings. … A one-lap penalty for pitting outside his box dropped Jeff Burton to 25th at the finish. Polesitter AJ Allmendinger came home 15th. Kyle Busch, Logano and Edwards supplanted Paul Menard (29th Saturday), Kurt Busch (35th) and Brian Vickers (37th) in the top 12. Newman improved six positions to 16th in points.
Top-12 Chase contenders after 7 of 36: 1. Johnson-1073, 2. Kenseth-1037, 3. Biffle-961, 4. Harvick-961, 5. J. Gordon- 948, 6. Bowyer-885, 7. Burton- 873, 8. Edwards-873, 9. Stewart 869, 10. Earnhardt-865, 11. Logano-862, 12. Kyle Busch-855
Kyle Busch wins Nationwide thriller
Kyle Busch drove one of the best races of his careeer as he overcame a potentially devastating penalty with 50 laps left to win the Phoenix Nationwide Series race.
“All I know is I paid NASCAR back by winning,” Busch said. “Man, this car was pretty awesome tonight. It was super, super fast. Hopefully, that was an exciting win for the fans. I don’t know how we could have made it any better of a show right there.”
Busch led the field to a restart on Lap 137 from the outside lane, but Keselowski nosed ahead before the cars reached the start-finish line. Cars in the outside lane stacked up behind Busch, triggering a 10-car wreck that necessitated a stoppage of nearly 10 minutes, as track workers cleaned up the debris.
NASCAR ruled that Busch failed to restart the race in the designated area between two red lines on the frontstretch wall and awarded the top position to Keselowski. On the subsequent restart on Lap 145, NASCAR posted Busch’s No. 18 Toyota for a pass-through penalty for jumping the restart.
The penalty dropped Busch to 19th in the running order, 20 seconds behind Keselowski. Over the next 38 laps, Busch improved to 11th before NASCAR called a caution for debris on Lap 188.
In fact, the only segment of the race Busch didn’t lead resulted from an out-of-sequence pit stop on Lap 17. Keselowski inherited the top spot for 15 laps, but Clint Bowyer stalled in Turn 1 to bring out the second caution, and Busch regained the lead by remaining on the track.
Kevin Harvick passed Keselowski and came home second. Brendan Gaughan ran fourth and Greg Biffle fifth. Polesitter Carl Edwards, Paul Menard, Scott Lagasse Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Joey Logano completed the top 10.
Keselwski took the lead in the series standings by four points over Edwards.
Top-10 points leaders after 6 of 35: 1. Keselowski-974, 2. Edwards-970, 3. Kyle Busch- 959, 4. Harvick-929, 5. Allgaier- 923, 6. Menard-804, 7. Logano- 728, 8. Biffle-718, 9. M. Wallace- 664, 10. Lagasse-663
Weekend racing: It’s on to the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway for the Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams this weekend. The Trucks do not race again until May 2.
Sat., Apr. 17, Nationwide Series O’Reilly 300, race 7 of 35, Starting time: 3 p.m. ET; TV: ESPN2.
Sun., Apr. 18, Sprint Cup Samsung 500, race 8 of 36, Starting time: 1 p.m. ET; TV: Fox.
Racing trivia question: Where is Cup driver Paul Menard’s hometown?
Last week’s question: Which Cup team is Martin Truex Jr. driving for this year? Answer. He is driving for Michael Waltrip Racing.