NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman poses for a photo with is wife, Krissie Newman, and daughters after winning the Samuel Deeds Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. Newman, an Indiana native, had never won on his home track before Sunday.
INDIANAPOLIS — On Saturday, Ryan Newman stole Jimmy Johnson’s pole position during the final qualifying run for the Brickyard 400.
On Sunday, Newman trumped Johnson again, moving in front of him with 25 laps to go thanks to a faster final pit stop and running off with the victory in the 20th edition of the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — the Indiana native’s first career victory on his home track.
Now Newman has something else to put on his resume when he looks for a job. Because of sponsorship issues, Stewart-Haas Racing is dropping Newman and his car at the end of the season. He found out two weeks ago.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” Newman said. “Having last weekend off was good timing.”
Newman’s last green-flag pit stop, when he took only right-side tires compared with Johnson’s four, was even better timed. It was about four seconds faster than Johnson’s. That moved Newman, who had been chasing Johnson along with the rest of the field all day, seven seconds ahead of him when both were back up to speed.
“Matt’s call did it,” Newman said of crew chief Matt Borland. “We had to have track position. It’s really so difficult to pass here. But we had a really good long-run car.”
Johnson chipped away at the lead, but when he closed to about three seconds, Newman picked up his pace. The final margin, 2.657 seconds, was as close as Johnson came in the final laps.
“I closed in and he went to 100 percent,” Johnson said.
For Johnson, who was chasing a record fifth Brickyard victory, the result was frustrating.
“We could have been four seconds closer leaving pit road,” Johnson said. “We didn’t need that, but stuff happens. Would it have mattered. I don’t know. Catching (Newman) and passing is different.”
Newman, 35, led the first 29 laps before pitting. Johnson assumed the lead and held it for much of the race, leading for 73 laps. Newman, who led for 45 laps, did not regain the lead for good until the 149th of 160 laps, when others ahead of him made their final pit stops.
But the key was being ahead of Johnson on a track where passing at speed is extremely difficult.
The victory was Newman’s 17th of his career and first of the season. For the South Bend, Ind., native who cut his teeth in USAC’s sprint car division, it was as gratifying as winning the 2008 Daytona 500.
“I don’t show a lot of emotions, but it’s the same feeling as when I won the Daytona 500,” said Newman, who ran sprint cars while going to Purdue and earning an engineering degree. “I ran at Winchester, Salem, IRP, Anderson, all the tracks around here, lived in Jeff Gordon’s old shop in Pittsboro way before I was in NASCAR.
“I think of those things more than I show them on my cheeks. (But) I think it’s a coincidence that I was born here. I’d have an appreciation for this track if I was born in Hawaii.”
Car co-owner Tony Stewart said he was thrilled for Newman, but dropping him from the team was a difficult business decision.
“It’s hard for me because I’m emotionally invested as well,” said Stewart, who finished fourth. “That battle was impressive to watch.”
Kasey Kahne finished third and Stewart was fourth. Chevrolet cars claimed the top four spots and five of the top six. The odd-man was Matt Kenseth, fifth in his Toyota.
Gordon, the other four-time Brickyard winner in the field, twice had the lead briefly during pit stops but eventually fell back and finished seventh.
“I don’t think we’re as good as I thought we were,” Gordon radioed his crew at mid-race wondering if there was paper blocking his grill.
Danica Patrick, who came to prominence by finishing fourth in the 2005 Indianapolis 500, started 33rd and stayed in that neighborhood most of the day, finishing 30th, two laps down.
NOTES: Johnson retained the lead in the Sprint Cup standings. He is 75 points ahead of Clint Bowyer. … Newman, who moved to 16th in the standings, picked up his ninth top-10 finish of the year. He had not won since Martinsville on April 1, 2012. It was only his third top 10 at Indianapolis. … While the back-markers were up to 50 laps behind, all 43 cars were running at the finish. Unlike many Sprint Cup races, there were no “start-and-park” entries, and nobody crashed. … Of the 20 lead changes, only one, Joey Logano’s pass of Brad Keselowski on the backstretch during the 87th lap, came under green on the racetrack. The other 19 resulted from pit stops. Stewart saw nothing wrong with that, saying, “We’re racing here. If you want to see passing, we can go out on (Interstate) 465 and do all the passing you want.” … The crowd was estimated at about 120,000, similar to last year’s attendance in a facility that currently seats about 235,000. … The series moves to Pocono next weekend.