It just wasn’t Ryan Newman’s weekend at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Newman had to forfeit his third-place starting spot and drop to the back of the field before the start of the Charlotte 500 on Saturday night due to an engine change. Then he never could get the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet to handle to his liking during the race. Newman was forced to settle for a disappointing 20th-place finish at the 1.5-mile oval.
“We definitely took a hit with the engine change,” Newman said. “We had a really fast Quicken Loans Chevrolet in practice and in qualifying here at Charlotte, and it wasn’t the same in the race. Losing that practice on Friday night because of the engine hurt us, too, because we never quite got the car to handle the way I needed it to so that I could make up the ground that we had lost having to start in the back. It was a tough night for us. We had the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the car this weekend, and it would have been nice to get them and Quicken Loans in victory lane tonight.”
Newman opened the Charlotte 500 weekend with a super-fast Quicken Loans Chevrolet, qualifying third for the race Saturday night under the lights at the team’s home track. But unfortunately that strong qualifying effort was the highlight for the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team.
Newman had to give up his third-place qualifying spot when his team was forced to change engines after discovering a problem during the final practice session Friday. Per the NASCAR rulebook, Newman was sent to the rear of the 43-car field, where he started in 38th, as there were other drivers whose teams also changed engines and had to start in the back.
Newman knew it would be an uphill battle starting so far back in the field, but he was hopeful he and the team would make up the lost ground over the course of the 500-mile race.
But the car’s handling and the track’s changing conditions early in the running of the Charlotte 500 played havoc with Newman and his Quicken Loans team’s efforts.
His car started with loose handling. Despite a variety of wedge, track bar and air pressure adjustments over a series of pit stops, the handling did not improve enough for Newman to gain ground. By lap 120, Newman had lost one lap to the leaders, which he was never able to recover.
Newman’s SHR teammate, Tony Stewart, finished 13th in the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet.
Clint Bowyer won the Charlotte 500 to score his eighth career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Charlotte.
Denny Hamlin finished .417 of a second behind Bowyer in the runner-up spot, while Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five. Mark Martin, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 23 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish the 334-lap race.
Stewart is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and came into the fifth race of the 10-race Chase in seventh place among the 12 Chase drivers, 46 points behind Chase leader Brad Keselowski. Stewart leaves Charlotte eighth in the standings, 50 points behind Keselowski.
Newman remained 14th in the standings with 889 points, 62 back of 13th-place Busch.