Ken de la Bastide
CNHI News Service
INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Newman capped a dream weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by scoring the biggest win of his NASCAR career in the Brickyard 400.
It was a popular win with the fans at IMS as Newman became the third driver with Hoosier roots to win, joining Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. Newman and Jimmie Johnson, looking for his fifth Brickyard 400 win, started on the front row and battled for the win the entire distance. The two drivers with the dominant cars all day combined to lead 128 of the 160 laps.
During Saturday qualifying Newman edged Johnson for the 50th career pole of his career, which came just two weeks after it was announced he would not return with the Stewart-Haas team in 2013.
Newman took the lead for the final time on lap 149 following a round of green flag pit stops. Johnson’s crew which had excellent pit stops all day faltered on the final stop taking 16.9seconds. With 20 laps remaining Johnson was 4.2-seconds behind Newman and closed to 3.1-secondswith ten circuits remaining but never challenged for the win.
“This is a dream come true,” Newman said after the traditional kissing of the yard of bricks at IMS. “Starting on the pole and winning the race. Just an awesome day for us. It will take a week or so for this to set in.”
Over the course of the final ten laps, Newman was hoping there wouldn’t be a late race caution. “Happy it stayed green,” he said. “We needed that. A great long-run car.”
Newman said this will give the team confidence for the rest of the season as the win put him in contention for a wild card in the chase.
“We still got a championship to go after,” he said. “We still got the Chase to chase.”
This was Newman’s 17th career win and his first since April, 2012 at Martinsville Speedway.
“Track position was really important,” Johnson said. “We had a mistake on pit road and had a lot of distance to make up.”
Johnson said had the mistake not happened on the last stop he would have been a lot closer to Newman.
“Catching someone and passing them are two different things,” he said.Johnson said second place was not what the team was looking for, but acknowledged it was a good run for the team.
“When you have a race winning car, hate to see an opportunity go by,” Johnson said of not winning his fifth Brickyard. “I can still go home with a smile on my face.”
Kasey Kahne finished third with Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth rounding out
the top five.
“I don’t know how we could have a better week,” Stewart said. “For Ryan to win the pole and battle with Jimmie (Johnson) all day. We had a top five car most of the day; just not as good as the front two. Everyone is happy for Ryan.”
All but one of the lead changes took place during caution period or green flags stops. Only Joey Logano made a racing pass for the lead by passing teammate Brad Keselowski on lap 87.
Chevrolet powered cars took seven of the top ten positions with Toyota taking two spots and one Ford.
It was a great day for Hendrick Motorsports with all four cars finishing in the top ten led by Johnson with Kahne coming home third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. with a sixth place showing and Jeff by Gordon in seventh.
There were only three caution periods for a total of 14 laps, twice when rookie driver Timmy Hill stopped on the track.