Ryan Newman had a little luck on his side, a strong No. 39 Workshops for Warriors/Gene Haas Foundation Chevrolet under him and some solid pit calls that helped the team march to an impressive fifth-place finish in the Geico 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
“I think at best we had a fifth-place car, and I’m just happy to get that,” said Newman, who earned his fourth top-five and 10th top-10 finish of the season. “The Workshops for Warriors/Haas Automation Chevrolet was decent at times, and we had a couple good restarts where we snuck it in on them three-wide, and it worked and we were able to make up some ground.
“I have to give it to crew chief Tony Gibson – he had a great call on strategy on two tires there at the end of the race, and the tires were great today as far as durability, so that really helped us to get this finish. To be honest, I’m just happy to be in the top five again and stopping on pit lane talking to the media. We were all pretty disappointed after last week and not making the Chase. Our goal was to go out every week the rest of the season and get some solid runs – top-fives, top-10s and even wins and to try and be the best non-Chaser out there. I think Kyle (Busch) finished one ahead of us today, but I’m proud of our performance.”
For Newman & Company, the fifth-place finish at Chicago was a great way to rebound from failing to make the Chase.
After starting 20th Sunday, Newman had his work cut out for him. Throughout the afternoon, he battled with a racecar that was tight in the center and loose exiting the turns. The car’s handling deteriorated during extended runs.
Determined to get the car right for its driver, the No. 39 pit crew adjusted the Workshops for Warriors/Gene Haas Foundation Chevy at each opportunity. The car seemed to improve with the adjustments, but it wasn’t enough until a very timely caution flag waved at lap 148.
Newman, who had been running in the top-15 for most of the day, was just one of a handful of cars that hadn’t done a green-flag pit stop when the caution flag was displayed at lap 148. He brought the No. 39 down pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments. When he returned to the track for the restart at lap 157, Newman was in fifth place. And thanks to a gutsy maneuver on the restart, Newman moved up as high as third.
While Newman couldn’t hang on to his top-three spot, he stayed in the top-10 for the remainder of the 267-lap race. A two-tire pit call for his final stop of the day at lap 231 got Newman back out on the track quickly, and he returned to the top-five before the end of the race.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished sixth. It was Stewart’s 13th top-10 result of 2012 and his 10th top-10 in 12 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile oval.
The Geico 400 marked the second straight race and the eighth time this season that Newman and Stewart have finished in the top-10 together.
SHR driver Danica Patrick, who is driving the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing via a collaborative agreement with SHR, finished 25th. It was her best career Sprint Cup finish, coming in her sixth Sprint Cup start and her first at Chicagoland.
Brad Keselowski won the Geico 400 to score his eighth career Sprint Cup victory, his fourth of the season and his first at Chicagoland.
Jimmie Johnson, who led four times for a race-high 172 laps, finished 3.171 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot. Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Newman rounded out the top-five. Stewart, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were four caution periods for 23 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race.
Stewart is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup and entered the first race of the 10-race Chase seeded third among the 12 Chase drivers, three points behind No. 1 seed Denny Hamlin. Stewart leaves Chicagoland still in third, eight points behind new Chase leader Keselowski.
Newman moved up two spots to 14th in the standings with 773 points, 41 back of 13th-place Busch. Patrick is running a 10-race Sprint Cup schedule and only accumulates points in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.