Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart Haas Racing (SHR), finished 21st in his Budweiser Duel qualifying race after a cut right-rear tire with 20 laps remaining forced an unscheduled pit stop and dropped him off the lead lap.
The Budweiser Duel consists of twin qualifying races that set the 43-car field for the season-opening Daytona 500, and Newman’s 21st-place finish in the second Duel race credited him with the 34th starting spot for the 55th Daytona 500 on Sunday. However, Newman will start the Great American Race from the back of the 43-car field, as the damage sustained from the flat tire prompted the team to switch to its backup racecar.
Despite the setback, Newman’s run in the Budweiser Duel got off to a fast start. He led the first lap of the 150-mile race around the 2.5-mile superspeedway before being shuffled to the back of the pack. He stayed there until lap 40, where he came to pit road for routine service.
But as he entered pit road, fellow driver Jamie McMurray locked up his brakes, and Newman was forced to make an evasive maneuver to avoid a crash.
“That’s the first time in 12 years that I’ve wheel-hopped at a superspeedway,” Newman said. “I didn’t expect it, and when it happened, I was steering to the right to avoid the No. 1 car (McMurray) because he was locking up his brakes. It was one of those worst-case scenarios, and I wound up spinning the Quicken Loans Chevrolet around. It was entirely my fault. I was trying to gain some ground getting to pit road. It was a little too aggressive, but that was the time to do it. That was the time to learn.
“We learned some things today. We made some adjustments that got our car driving a little better today. The good thing is that our backup car is the same car we had down here for testing last month, so we have confidence in that car.”
Tony Stewart led the way for SHR by finishing sixth in his Budweiser Duel race. The result slots him and his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS 13th for the Daytona 500.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for SHR, joined Stewart in the first Budweiser Duel race. She finished 17th, but will start from the pole for the Daytona 500. She set the fastest lap in qualifying last Sunday, which locked her into the No. 1 starting position.
Kevin Harvick won the first Budweiser Duel by .165 of a second over Greg Biffle. Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch took spots three through five. The rest of the top-10 consisted of Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Casey Mears, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano.
Kyle Busch won the second Budweiser Duel by .093 of a second over Kasey Kahne. Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth took spots three through five. The rest of the top-10 consisted of Mark Martin, Paul Menard, Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray and David Ragan.
With the Budweiser Duel now complete, the field for the Daytona 500 is set. On the pole is Patrick, and alongside her is Jeff Gordon. By notching the two quickest times during last Sunday’s time trials, both drivers were able to lock themselves into the front row for the Daytona 500.