Ryan Newman battled through NASCAR’s longest race on Sunday night, earning a 16th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600. The eventful race saw 20 percent of its 400 laps run under caution, with Newman’s No. 6 Oscar Mayer Ford Mustang surviving several on-track incidents to remain in contention until the very end, when Newman lined up on the front row for a restart with just five laps to go.
“We didn’t have the best of cars, but we got ourselves in position and tried,” Newman said. “Two tires was kind of my idea, but I just didn’t have enough to hold on. We were off a little bit in speed all day and that’s what we needed there at the end.”
The driver from South Bend, Ind. started the 600-mile race from the 18th position. He would maintain that position throughout much of the first stage, before staying out on three successive cautions in an attempt to save a fresh set of Goodyear tires for the end of that marathon event. The older tires gave way to others on fresher sets, and Newman wrapped up the first stage in the 24th position.
Crew chief Scott Graves was able to take feedback from his driver and dial in the Oscar Mayer Mustang, restoring balanced handling and rocketing Newman to a 13th-place finish in stage two. The No. 6 team hit one of many strong pit stops, and put Newman out for the third stage in the seventh position. As the sun fell below the Charlotte Motor Speedway grandstands, handling again shifted to the tight side and Newman was scored with a 15th-place finish in the third stage.
Newman was able to work his way into the top ten quickly following the start of the fourth and final stage before he narrowly avoided a multi-car crash. The No. 6 driver then worked his way forward, as high as the fifth position, before damage to the nose of his Mustang dropped him backwards. With a late caution, Graves took the chance to only put two fresh tires on the Mustang, and Newman restarted second with only a few laps to go. The strategy proved ineffective, however, and Newman dropped to 16th, where he would finish the race.