Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Quicken Loans team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) “engineered” an impressive run that resulted in a 10th-place finish in the Southern 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
“That was a really good comeback by our Quicken Loans team,” said Newman, who has 10 top-10 finishes in 15 career starts at the 1.366-mile oval. “Our racecar was loose pretty much all night up until that last run, but Matt Borland (crew chief) and the guys kept adjusting on it and working on it trying to make it better. They really just didn’t give up, and we were able to get the ‘Lucky Dog’ two different times to get back on the lead lap, and we ended up with a top-10 finish. I’m just really proud of how hard these guys battled tonight.”
Newman, who started 21st, fought a loose-handling racecar for the majority of the 367-lap event. Despite his struggles, Newman managed to stay inside the top-20 throughout the event. But extended green-flag runs resulted in Newman losing track position, and the Quicken Loans machine fell one lap down to the race leaders by lap 115.
Luckily, a caution at lap 125 played in to Newman’s favor, as he was the first car one lap down and was awarded the “Lucky Dog” and allowed to get back on the lead lap.
Borland called for a variety of chassis adjustments during the race to aid Newman’s loose-handling condition, including track bar, wedge and air pressure adjustments. But as the laps clicked off, the handling characteristics of the Quicken Loans Chevy didn’t improve as much as Newman needed to gain spots on the racetrack. Another long stretch of green flag racing led to Newman going one lap down to the leaders a second time at lap 257.
A caution flag at lap 301 afforded Newman’s team the opportunity to take a big swing at improving Newman’s “crashing loose” racecar. Borland called for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments in addition to making a packer adjustment to the right-front shock.
Newman returned to the track in 13th place, one lap down, with one goal before the end of the race – to put the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet in position to get back on the lead lap should the caution flag wave. Newman was able to do that when a caution came out at lap 328.
Back on the lead lap in 13th place, Newman was able to move up three spots in the closing laps to finish 10th.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 15th.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 28th. It was Patrick’s 21st career Sprint Cup start and her second at Darlington.
Matt Kenseth won the Southern 500 to score his 27th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Darlington.
Denny Hamlin finished 3.155 seconds behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 25 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 367-lap race.
With round 11 of 36 complete, Newman continues to lead the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He maintained his 17th position in the standings and has 276 points, 147 back of series leader Johnson and 39 points behind 10th-place Harvick. Stewart moved up one spot to 21st in the standings and has 253 points, 170 out of first and 62 behind Harvick. Patrick dropped one spot to 28th in the standings and has 196 points, 227 behind Johnson and 119 away from Harvick.
Fifteen 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 10 spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 18th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday, May 18 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The non-point-paying event begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by SPEED beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m. SPEED’s “RaceDay” begins at 4 p.m.