One was far from the loneliest number Sunday afternoon (July 17) at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway as Ryan Newman led six times for 119 laps en route to win from the pole, leading six times for 119 laps, with teammate Tony Stewart in second, giving Stewart-Haas Racing a 1-2 sweep of the weekend.
“We did what we had to do,” said an elated Newman. “Just got to thank the US Army, thank you guys. We’ve been working so hard to get this US Army Chevrolet into victory lane. I want to thank Sprint, Tornados, Haas Automation, Coca-Cola, all the people at Bass Pro Shops and all the people who have jumped on this year. A real big team effort. We’re proud that we came home 1-2 just as we started, a great weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing. Good points day. I want to dedicate this win to a good friend of mine, I lost him in April and my grandfather a couple of years ago this weekend so it’s sentimental for several reasons.”
The race started with Newman sitting on the pole with a lap of 135.232 mph with Stewart alongside. Early on, the two Stewart-Haas teammates traded the lead back and forth. The first caution came out on lap 31 for debris, setting up a split pit strategy that affected a good chunk of the race. Most of the leaders pitted to take two tires. Others took four tires and lost track position. Jamie McMurray chose not to top and ascended to the lead for the restart.
Thirty laps later points leader Kyle Busch popped a right-front tire and hit the wall, ending his hopes of a Nationwide and Cup series sweep of the weekend for the second caution of the afternoon. Afterwards, Kyle was not happy.
“Blew a bead,” said a dejected Kyle Busch. “Fastest car here — getting through the field pretty good and kind of the only guy passing guys, I guess. We made some big changes there on that pit stop. We came back and got four (tires) just to make sure that we got all the changes we wanted to. Working our way up through there with the Interstate Batteries Camry.
“Just blew a bead I guess. Transferring too much brake heat through the wheel. Couldn’t tell you anything else besides that. Kind of knew things weren’t going to go our way today. This morning, woke up and everything went wrong that could go wrong. Pretty much seemed right.”
Another split round of stops occurred. Newman, who had made short work of McMurray on the previous restart, once again took two tires. McMurray, despite not pitting on the first round, was able to keep himself in the top 10 prior to the second yellow. Mark Martin chose not to pit and took the lead. However, Newman made quick work of him on the restart to regain the lead.
Caution number three came out for debris on lap 101, resulting in another repeat of tire strategy. Jimmie Johnson took the lead by staying out. However, the next caution did not fall fast enough for the five-time defending Sprint Cup champion, so he was forced to pit under green for fuel and tires and lost a lap.
On lap 145, the fourth caution of the day came out when Brad Keselowski blew a right-front tire and popped into the turn 3 wall. The crash was very similar to Busch’s incident. Keselowski’s crew did get the No. 2 back on track, but Keselowski finished 35th, 44 laps down.
On lap 172, the sixth caution of the afternoon came out when Juan Pablo Montoya and AJ Allmendinger made contact in turn 2. The Allmendinger-Montoya contact resulted in Denny Hamlin spinning out. Behind them, Mike Bliss got in the back of Andy Lally and spun out the No. 71. Lally ended up just grazing the back of Hamlin’s car. Both Hamlin and Lally continued without losing a lap.
Thirteen laps later, caution number seven came out for a Martin spin. Martin had cut a left-rear tire and simply could not control his car. However, the spin, along with a penalty for pitting out of his pit box, cost Martin two laps.
On lap 217, the eighth caution of the afternoon came out for debris. Another split round of stops occurred where many of the leaders made their final stops. However, with 84 laps to go, many of the teams were outside of their range to make it to the end. Joey Logano stayed out to take the lead, along with Marcos Ambrose.
Caution number nine came out after contact between teammates Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers resulted in the No. 83 spinning into the frontstretch wall. Dave Blaney simply had nowhere to go and was collected. The drivers who stayed out under the previous yellow, along with others who chose to top off pitted.
The final caution of the day came out for a Johnson spin on lap 241, following some contact with Montoya, which put the leaders in fuel-saving mode the rest of the way. Multiple drivers, like Kurt Busch and McMurray, ran out of fuel prior to the finish. However, Newman managed to make his fuel last and held off his hard-charging teammate Stewart, who finished second.
“Man, this one hell of a perfect weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing,” commented Stewart. “It was a sweet 1-2 in qualifying and 1-2 in the race. I’m so damn proud I can’t see straight. I’m proud of my buddy there (Ryan Newman, race winner) standing on top of his car. He deserved it. He did an awesome job this weekend.”
Third place was Hamlin, who recovered from his earlier incident for a podium finish.
“It was a pretty physical race in the sense that guys were really banging into each other,” Hamlin said. “I was banging into guys. Just it was one of those days where you just had to do the best you can to keep four fenders on it by the end of the day. We had three, but it was good enough to get us through and have a good come back day finishing third.”
Logano finished in fourth while Johnson rounded out the top five. Kasey Kahne was sixth, followed by Bobby Labonte with his best unrestricted finish of the season. Martin Truex Jr. was eighth, followed by Ambrose and Kurt Busch. Jeff Gordon was in the top five with a lap to go, but blew a tire and dropped to 11th.
The margin of victory was 0.773 seconds at an average speed of 104.100 mph. The lead changed 21 times amongst 14 different drivers.
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series takes a short break. Two weeks from now, the series goes back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400.
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