Sunday, April 1, 2012

Newman at Right Place, Right Time, Wins at Martinsville

USA Today

Newman got a big assist from SHR teammate Reutimann
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Ryan Newman held off A.J. Allmendinger on a green-white checkered finish Sunday to win the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway in a wild ending.

Newman took the lead after the top three cars of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer were knocked out of contention in the first attempt at an overtime finish. Gordon was leading when Bowyer attempted to dive below him in Turn 1. Gordon's Chevrolet and Bowyer's Toyota made contact, collecting the Chevy of Johnson.

Newman emerged in the lead and held it for the final two laps under green ahead of Allmendinger, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr.

It was Newman's first win in NASCAR's premier series at the 0.526-mile oval.

"We were at best a fourth-place car and sometimes a 15th-place car," Newman said. "We did everything we could."

The rest of the top 10 was Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and Bowyer.

Johnson finished 12th, the last car on the lead lap. Gordon, who ran out of gas during the final caution, was 14th.

For most of the afternoon, it seemed as if a Hendrick car was destined to win and give team owner Rick Hendrick his long-awaited 200th victory.

Johnson, Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. were running 1-2-3 with 20 laps remaining before the chaos began with a caution with three laps left for David Reutimann's stalled car on the track.

"I don't know what the hell (Reutimann) was doing," Bowyer said. "He drove around for 10 laps with no brakes and finally just stopped."

In a postrace interview, Gordon said he was initially mad at Bowyer but realized later that Newman's bump of Bowyer triggered the mayhem.

But many drivers, including Earnhardt, seemed to be steaming at Reutimann.

In a postrace interview on Fox, Reutimann said he was staying on the track to stay in the top 35 in owner points for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

"I would not have stopped on the freakin' racetrack. The thing quit going on the back straightaway," Reutimann said. "I know it sucks, and I hate it for everybody it affected. But I can't get out and push the thing. I was just trying to finish the day out and stay in the top 35."

Newman, however, wasn't blaming anyone for the result.

"I'm not in a position to point fingers, because I won," he said, laughing. "In all honesty, I gave Clint a pretty good shove at the start-finish line.

"The seas kind of parted and opened up, and we went right through there."

Pole-sitter Kasey Kahne's horrendous luck continued when his No. 5 Chevrolet suffered an engine problem after 200 laps. Kahne entered the garage during a lap 246 caution and remained there until lap 300. He brought out a caution 15 laps later when he spun in his own oil entering pit road as his engine finally expired, and he finished 38th.

It was Kahne's fourth finish of 29th or worse this season, and it puts his car back in the danger zone of falling outside the top 35 in points and a guaranteed starting spot in each race.

Kahne has qualified first twice this year but hasn't led a lap. He was passed by Kevin Harvick on the first lap Sunday and by teammate Earnhardt Jr. in the March 11 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Martinsville Results

No comments: