Monster Energy Cup Series News (17340)
The torrid early-season pace continues for Ryan Newman, who posted a fifth-place finish in Sunday's Auto Club 400 Sprint Cup race.
It was Newman's fourth straight top-10 result and his third top-five in the first-five races of the 2011 campaign.
The fifth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway lifted Newman from fourth to second in the driver point standings. He trails leader Carl Edwards by nine points.
"It's been an amazing start and the script is playing out the way we were hoping it would during the offseason," said Newman. "We were off a bit in the beginning of today's race, but we made a few adjustments and the U.S. Army Chevrolet kept on getting better and better. The only bad news for us is that we didn't win the race."
Newman added, "What makes me even more excited about our recent success is that we are making our Soldiers proud of their team. These Soldiers, who are deployed in more than 80 countries, are our best fans and they give us the inspiration to keep battling with a never-give-up attitude."
There were a couple of key moments for Newman and the No. 39 U.S. Army team during the 200-lap, 400-mile event. The first came during a Lap 76 pit stop when crew chief Tony Gibson opted for two tires instead of four. The result vaulted Newman to second place in track position.
"That was a key decision that really paid off," noted Newman. "We pretty much stayed up there the rest of the race."
Another key moment was near the end of the race (Lap 187) when Gibson and Newman jointly agreed not to pit for fresh tires.
"At that time we were running in sixth place and felt we could hold off the cars behind us that took fresh tires," explained Newman. "I guess we did one better by finishing fifth."
Regarding the decision not to pit, Gibson said he got more nervous when more cars behind the Army Chevy didn't pit for new tires.
"I was hoping for more cars to pit, but Ryan did one great driving job," said Gibson. "We're going to ride this success as long as we can and build up a point cushion. Realistically you know there are going to be some bad days. But right now we're enjoying ourselves and having plenty of fun."
Newman's teammate, Tony Stewart, finished 13th and is sixth in driver points.
The race winner was Kevin Harvick. Rounding out the top-five in order were: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Newman.
Stewart-Haas Racing PR
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Partners for Youth Success (PaYS) Chevrolet Impala, led the two-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., by finishing fifth in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Newman led once for eight laps en route to his third top-five finish of the season and his fourth top-five in 17 career Sprint Cup starts at Fontana.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala for SHR, finished 13th. Stewart ran among the top-five for much of the event and led four times for 11 laps, but faded in the final 15 circuits around the 2-mile oval with an ill-handling racecar.
Kevin Harvick won the Auto Club 400 to score his 15th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his first at Fontana.
Jimmie Johnson finished .144 of a second behind Harvick in the runner-up spot, while Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Newman rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Kasey Kahne and pole-sitter Juan Pablo Montoya comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were four caution periods for 16 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 200-lap race.
With round five of 36 complete, Newman moved up one spot to second in the Sprint Cup championship point standings and sits just nine markers back of new leader Edwards. Stewart fell three spots to sixth in the standings and is 17 points back of Edwards.
Stewart-Haas Racing PR
Kevin Harvick got to sample the sweet taste of winning in his home state of California by scoring his first career victory at Auto Club Speedway. The Bakersfield native only led one lap in his No. 29 Jimmy John's Chevrolet, but it was the one that counted.
After starting 24th in the 43-car field of the Auto Club 400, Harvick methodically worked his way through the field to put himself in position for a dramatic last-lap pass of fellow Team Chevy driver Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet.
Scoring his 15th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) win moved Harvick six places up in the standings to ninth position.
Five time defending NSCS champion Johnson moved up two positions in the standings to fifth following his runner-up finish.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 US Army Chevrolet, continued his tremendous start to the 2011 NSCS season with a fifth place finish today in the 200-lap/400-mile race. After scoring three top-five and four top-10 finishes in the five races run so far this season, Newman is second in the point standings, just nine points down to the leader.
Clint Bowyer, No. 33 The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation Centennial Celebration Chevrolet, finished seventh and advanced seven positions in the standings to 17th place.
Pole winner Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Chevrolet, finished 10th in the final order and sits eighth in the standings.
Paul Menard, No. 27 Serta/.Menards Chevrolet, sits seventh in points after his 16th place finish today.
Tony Stewart, No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, suffered handling problems in the closing laps of the race and had to settle for the 13th finishing position after leading four times for 11 laps. The two-time NSCS champion is sixth in the point standings.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, finished 12th in today's race and sits 12th in points to give Team Chevy seven of the top-12 drivers in the standings.
Team Chevy Racing PR
Hometown boy (finally) makes good.
Kevin Harvick, who grew up in Bakersfield—about 150 miles from Auto Club Speedway—needed a last-lap pass of Jimmie Johnson to win for the first time at the 2-mile track, in his 18th attempt.
Harvick won Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, powering his No. 29 Chevrolet to the outside of Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy through Turns 3 and 4 and beating Johnson to the finish line by .144 seconds.
Harvick, who restarted fifth with nine laps remaining, surged to the front on the final two laps, passing Kyle Busch and Johnson in the process. The victory was Harvick’s first of the season and 15th of his career and moved him up six spots in the points standings to ninth.
Busch, who led a race-high 151 laps, came home third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman. Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Kasey Kahne and polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top 10. Edwards took over the series lead by nine points over Newman.
Busch held the lead until Lap 198, when Johnson passed him to the inside after the cars crossed the stripe. The duel between Busch and Johnson allowed Harvick to gain ground.
A caution on Lap 185 of 200, after Bobby Labonte blew a right front tire and slammed the Turn 4 wall, meant decision time for the crew chiefs. With Labonte’s wrecked car blocking the entrance to pit road, the pits remained closed until Lap 189, when Labonte’s car was dragged to the garage by a wrecker.
Busch, Johnson, Tony Stewart, Bowyer, Harvick, Newman and Edwards stayed on the track during the caution, with Kenseth leading a group of cars to pit road.
“Those guys just started to race,” Harvick said. “They got side by side, and we were able to pull up in there. The more laps we got on our tires, the better we were, but I was really nervous about that last call—staying out—but it all worked out in our favor, and we were able to make up ground.
“(Crew chief) Gil (Martin) obviously knew that we were better after the tires had air in them (as pressure built during green-flag runs), and it all worked out today.”
Johnson’s battle with Busch opened the door for Harvick, who led one lap—the one that counted.
“If I could have gotten by the No. 18 (Busch) a lap sooner, maybe that would have made the difference, and I would have had enough of a margin to hold off the No. 29, but he was rolling on the top,” Johnson said. “I did all I could. I was dead sideways. I think I hit the fence one time off of (Turn) 2, chasing Kyle, with the right rear first because it was sliding off the corner.”
After a cycle of stops that began when Busch pitted from the lead on Lap 138, Busch held a 6.5-second lead over Stewart, who began to make up ground throughout the ensuing green-flag run. Stewart had erased all but 1.3 seconds of Busch’s advantage when another cycle of green-flag stops widened the lead to 2.5 seconds.
Andy Lally’s spin off Turn 4 on Lap 170, however, brought out the third caution of the race and bunched the field for a restart on Lap 175. Busch and Stewart took the green flag side-by-side, with Busch in the outside lane, and the driver of the No. 18 Toyota pulled away to a half-second lead within three laps.
By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
Matt Kenseth drove to an impressive fourth-place finish in the waning laps of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 Sprint Cup race to lead three Roush Fenway cars in the top 11 of the event, but it was Carl Edwards who used a sixth-place finish to claim the Sprint Cup points lead; giving Roush Fenway the lead in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)
The race’s final caution was waved with 12 laps remaining, setting up a wild and frantic finish. Kenseth used a two-tire stop on the race’s final stop to catapult his No. 17 Crown Royal Ford to the top-five finish.
Edwards elected to stay out on the caution and finished sixth, while Greg Biffle rebounded from a 32nd starting position to finish 11th. David Ragan, who qualified sixth, rounded out the Roush Fenway effort with a 22nd-place finish.
Kenseth used the top-five finish to move up three spots to 10th in the points. After a tough start to the season, Biffle climbed up three more spots to 20th and David Ragan is 22nd after five races. Edwards leads the standing by nine points over second-place Ryan Newman.
Roush Fenway Racing PR
In an odd racing coincidence, three drivers will be celebrating milestone starts in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500.
Mark Martin, Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray will all be making historic starts in their careers.
Ironically Biffle and McMurray will both be celebrating their 300th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts. That is a pretty impressive number, until you take a look at Martin’s. In fact, he has more Cup races under his belt than Biffle and McMurray combined.
The 52-year-old Martin will be making his 800th NASCAR Sprint Cup career start at Martinsville in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500.
Martin has 40 wins in his Cup career, which began in 1981. He has two race wins at Martinsville, the 1992 Hanes 500 and the 2000 Goody’s 500. Coincidentally Martin’s first career top-five finish came at Martinsville on Sept. 27, 1981. He finished third behind Darrell Waltrip and Harry Gant.
HARMONIZING: The Virginia Military Institute Glee club will perform a prerace show of patriotic songs from the front stretch Sunday afternoon and then sing “God Bless America” before Trace Adkins sings the National Anthem.
The VMI Glee Club, which has been in existence since 1858, has entertained groups from coast-to-coast, singing for everything from gubernatorial inaugurations to the National Shrine in Washington, DC, to PGA Tournaments. Their version of the anthem is authentic and traditional.
The VMI Glee Club is made up of 30 cadets from all classes, academic majors and ROTC affiliations at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, VA. It is the oldest performing group at VMI.
VMI is the nation’s oldest state supported military college, founded in 1839.
FLYOVER REPEAT: The VFA-31 Tomcatters out of the Naval Air Station in Oceana, VA, are back for their second turn opening the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 with a flyover. Lieutenant Commander Kevin Robb and Lieutenant Dustin Packer put on quite the show from the pilot seats for their F/A-18E Super Hornets.
GRADING THE FLYOVER: The Tomcatters will have a set of experienced eyes watching them Sunday afternoon. Lieutenant General Jeffrey A. Remington, a three-star Air Force general, will be taking in a day at the race on Sunday.
Remington knows a thing or two about piloting a jet. He is a command general with over 4,100 hours flying mostly F-15s and F-16s.
FAMOUS ZIP CODE: Martinsville Speedway’s zip code is 24148, which is tied to Ridgeway, Va. You may spot someone this weekend from a more legendary zip code: 90210, which of course is tied to Beverly Hills. You remember the TV show: Beverly Hills 90210.
Jason Priestly, who played teen hunk Brandon Walsh on the 90s era TV show, is a racer and a race fan. He’s wanted to come to Martinsville Speedway for a lot of years. He will be here for race weekend, but in a low-key fashion, enjoying race from the infield.
Martinsville Speedway PR
For Trevor Bayne and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion crew didn’t quite get the qualifying result they were hoping for on Friday at Auto Club Speedway, but that doesn’t mean Bayne’s worried about being able to drive toward the front in Sunday’s Auto Club 400.
In qualifying, Bayne turned a lap at 181.804 miles per hour to take the 27th starting position.
He said going back and forth between his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion on the Sprint Cup side and his Ford Mustang in the Nationwide Series during practice might have cost him a starting spot or two in Cup qualifying.
“I was a little disappointed with it, but it is tough going from Nationwide to Cup cars,” Bayne said. “We see that a lot.”
He said he just missed turning a qualifying lap that would have put him starting a little closer to the front.
“We were tight in the center, and I hit the seam [in the asphalt] wrong, and we lost some speed there,” he said. “We weren’t a pole run for sure, but we could have beaten a couple of those guys.”
Bayne went on to say that qualifying at Auto Club Speedway is far different than racing there, and that’s why he’s anxious to take on the rest of the race weekend.
“This place is so weird,” he said. “I hate practice and qualifying because you have to run the bottom, but I love the race because you love the top all day.
“I can’t wait to get to race time.”
Wood Brothers Racing PR
Juan Pablo Montoya, in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet, captured the Auto Club 400 Coors Light Pole Friday afternoon in qualifying at Auto Club Speedway. Montoya’s 38.99 time earned him his first pole at Auto Club Speedway and his fourth consecutive Top Five start at the track.
“We went out and found two ways to mess up the car and put it back,” Montoya said. “I think we’ve got a decent car. We always run well here. We’re in really good position in points and we have to take advantage of that.”
Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota, will join Montoya in the front row posting his first Top 10 start of 2011 and his fifth in 11 races at Auto Club Speedway.
“It’s been a good day really, just focusing on qualifying,” Hamlin said. “I’ve never really worked so hard to work on just one lap as much as I have this week. Last week we had issues at Bristol and that was because we qualified bad, so we can’t put ourselves in the middle of the pack every week.”
Joey Logano, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, took third, earning his third Top 10 start in five races this season.
“It felt like we weren’t very good after practice,” Logano said. “I was very nervous before qualifying. I didn’t think we’d be top three for sure. I actually thought we’d be like 20th or so but the guys with the Home Depot Center team did a great job at getting it faster and getting the grip on the corners. It still was loose but it was a lot better than I ended practice with.”
Andy Lally, No. 71 Eco-Fuel Saver Chevrolet, was the fastest qualifying rookie finishing 38th.
Auto Club Speedway