Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Ryan Newman Stretches Tires to Douse Winless Drought in Phoenix

Who’s in the headlineRyan Newman won the 2013 Brickyard 400 before he was released by Stewart-Haas Racing. He has managed several third-place finishes, but only one runner-up since. In typical Newman fashion, he stayed out on a late-race caution with old tires and managed to hold off Kyle Larson to steal the victory. Newman had some physical struggles during the event, stating in Victory Lane ‘I had the chills on Lap 150. I’m done.’

What happened – Phoenix was another example of how this new aero package is greatly rewarding clean air. After races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it appeared that the top three cars had a distinct advantage over the rest of the field. Phoenix appeared to be even worse, where the leader was invincible, with only one pass for the lead that occurred on-track not on a restart. That was a pass by Chase Elliott on the second lap after a Lap 84 restart.

Additionally, it seemed that in-pack passing was somewhat more limited than it has been in the past two weeks. Joey Logano scored the first stage win, while Elliott managed the first win of a segment for Chevrolet all season in Stage 2. Kyle Busch led the majority of the final stage until Logano blew a tire, ending his day, and bringing out the overtime finish. Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. stayed out during the caution and ultimately cost Larson or Busch the win.

Why you should care – As much as the new aero package has seemed to increase the racing in the pack, the leaders seem to be back to the enormous aero advantage of 2015. If the decision makers don’t come up with a way to get air under these cars soon, we may see more and more races on the mile and a half tracks settled by late race no-tire strategies. Leaders deserve an advantage, but we’ve gone back to a ridiculous penalty for the remainder of the field.

What your friends are talking about – After all of the post-race buzz last week about the Busch v. Logano dust-up, people were anxious to see what the sanctioning body would do from a fine standpoint. It was announced later in the week that no penalties would be assessed for drivers or crew members. While letting drivers police themselves and get physical if they deem necessary, the same should not apply for the crew members. With NASCAR saying that everything was OK last week, they have opened the door for crew members to have a full on Royal Rumble on pit road. It sets a bad precedent, and NASCAR will probably regret that decision.

Speaking of the altercation, Busch went full on Marshawn Lynch with the media in Phoenix. No matter what question was asked of him on Friday behind his hauler, during his first availability of the weekend, Busch just stated he ‘Everything is great, I’m just looking forward to being in my racecar here at Phoenix.’ It would have been nice to get an honest answer out of Busch, but at the same time, it is probably better to just let it die.

Just two months after the announcement, people are still determined to put Carl Edwards in a racecar. Rumors are rampant that Edwards is going to be back with a top-tier team or a new manufacturer coming into the sport. This weekend, he had a texting exchange with Tom Jensen of Fox Sports and reiterated that his three reasons for stepping away 1) Satisfied with his career 2) Desire to spend time with his family 3) Maintaining his health, still apply.

The lawsuit between Stewart-Haas Racing and Nature’s Bakery continues to unfold. SHR sent a letter to Nature’s Bakery outlining the benefits provided by their sponsorship in December. It claims $11.5 million in benefit was provided, between $4.5 million in television news exposure and $7 million in social media exposure. Nature’s Bakery asserts that SHR provided no value and that Danica Patrick endorsed protein products, which voided the deal. SHR asserts that they failed to activate their sponsorship and blames the failure on Nature’s Bakery’s internal issues. They also put forward that TaxAct realized far more value in a shorter period because they properly activated their sponsorship.

Sam Bass designed Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car for this weekend. In the modern world of NASCAR, Bass’s influence in car design is showing up less and less. The first officially licensed artist of NASCAR used to have a hand in designing nearly half of the cars on the track on any given race weekend. Now there are a handful of cars in the entire race season that are the work of Bass. The vast majority are now done in house thanks to graphic software and art majors who work for teams.

Sadly, none of the teams seem to put the effort into analyzing the visual impact of their cars before wrapping them and putting them on the race track. Car design is an art and teams treat it like a hobby in today’s NASCAR.

Who is mad – During the Can-Am Duel races at Daytona, Corey LaJoie was competing with Reed Sorenson for one of the four open spots for the 500. LaJoie saw an opening and went for it only to have Sorenson try and close the hole before he got there. In the end, Sorenson had a hard wreck, that eliminated him from the event and secured the position for LaJoie. On Sunday, Sorenson extracted revenge, at least in LaJoie’s eyes. The drivers made contact in the dogleg at Phoenix, and LaJoie ended up in the wall. While it didn’t eliminate LaJoie from the race, it did damage his car enough that it ultimately hit the wall and ended his day.

Larson finished second for the third consecutive event. Most drivers would like to have a run like that at the start of a season, especially being the point leader after four races. Larson was the first car with two new tires, and in a favorable starting position on the final restart. He tried to make a move to the inside of Newman heading into Turn One on the restart, but Stenhouse drove in deep and ended up nudging him. The lost of distance to Newman cost him a shot at a pass and the win.

Who is happy – Stenhouse took a gamble like Newman and, while he didn’t manage a win, he did wrangle a fourth-place finish. While Truex fell back to 11th, while Stenhouse was able to race hard all the way to the end, forcing Larson and Busch to work around him. The end result was his best finish since his runner-up finish last August at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Virtually unnoticed on the television coverage was the second highest finishing Toyota on Sunday, and the highest finishing rookie was Daniel Suarez. While Erik Jones garnered the spotlight for running in, and around the top 10, when the checkered flag flew it was Suarez who crossed the line in seventh-place, one spot ahead of Jones.

When the checkered flag flew:

Ryan Newman won his 18th career race. It was his 552 career start.

Newman’s victory was his second in his career at Phoenix.

The is Newman’s first triumph of 2017 and breaks a 127 race winless drought.

Newman is tied for 45th on the all-time win list with Geoffrey Bodine, Neil Bonnett and Harry Gant.

This was the first win for Richard Childress Racing in 112 races. Their last victory was by Kevin Harvick at Phoenix in 2013.

Kyle Larson’s runner-up finish was his third consecutive second-place finish of 2017.

The second was Larson’s best career finish at Phoenix.

Larson is tied for 67th on the all-time runner-up list with nine. He is tied with five other drivers including Martin Truex Jr. and Ken Schrader.

Kyle Busch rounded out the podium at Phoenix with his fifth career top three at Phoenix.

The third place was Busch’s best finish of the season.

Busch is 22nd on the all-time podium list with 99 top threes.

Daniel Suarez won the Rookie of the Race with his seventh-place finish.

Based on their wins, assuming there are 16 or fewer winners during the 26 regular season races, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman will be in the playoffs when they begin. The remaining 12 drivers who would qualify, and their positions:

  1. Kyle Larson
  1. Chase Elliott
  1. Joey Logano
  2. Ryan Blaney
  3. Kevin Harvick
  4. Jamie McMurray
  1. Kasey Kahne
  1. Trevor Bayne
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Clint Bowyer
  5. Jimmie Johnson

What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)

The race at Phoenix seemed to highlight the apparent weakness of the current aero package. While the racing in the pack seems to be better than it has been, it is back to a large benefit to be in clean air. One on-track pass for the lead, and a victory by a driver with 55 laps on his when cars behind him had two fresh bolognas just proves the point. While it was a good story, the best it rates is two lukewarm Biltmore Blondes from The Phoenix Ale Brewery.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – The third and final race of the West Coast swing is Sunday March 26th at 3:30 p.m. ET. The race will be on your local FOX channel. It can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate, www.motorracingnetwork.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90. The race is also streamed on the Fox Sports Go application.

About the author


What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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Bill B

Yes it was obvious that the aero issues were ruling the race. There were plenty of cautions without the 2 for the stage endings. It never felt like the race got into any kind of a groove. I guess that’s just the way the ball bounces sometimes.
After last week’s 22 vs. 18 controversy, it was interesting that the 22 inadvertently cost the 18 the race this week. If the 22 doesn’t wreck the 18 wins that race easily.


that was ironic how 18 got screwed by 22’s caution


i napped through most of the race. i turned it off when the guys in booth were giving the win to kyle busch. was pleasantly surprised to find out that ryan had won.

with all the hoopla about jr qualifying third (and at a non-plate track), he sure fell quickly into his typical spot in the field. is a parachute or boat anchor part of his braking system in the 88 car? communication issues with driver and crew chief. this is the same song different verse with jr and whomever his crew chief is. but he’s back racing and putting butts in the stands and people watching on tv so i’m sure na$car is happy.i mean bowman was in his car a while last year and seemed to be able to get up on the wheel and drive it. is this just youth and inexperience vs. age and experience? guess fans will have to wait til the spring visit to dega to see him run up front.

looks like i’ll have a nice nap next weekend.


After at least matching last year’s Tv ratings at Daytona, the last 2 races have been significantly down in viewership compared with their counterparts from last year. It seems that the more that Brain Fart France tries to “improve the product” the more it sucks.

Carl D.

Had Stenhouse not stayed out I think there would have been a different winner. Ricky held up Larson just long enough for Newman to put some distance between himself and Kyle. Yeah, the clean air advantage was huge, but like you pointed out, the difference between Newman’s tires and Larson’s tires was 55 laps.


You know what sticks in my craw this week camper? Three, count em 3, drivers earned more points Sunday than race winner Ryan Newman. 12th place Chase Elliott earned the same amount of points as Newman after a strong run in stage one and a dominant run on stage 2. Tey explaining that to a non fan or even caaual fan of the sport. I dont follow college basketball but I know when I look at the results page in every instance the team thar scored the most points won no matter how hot or flat they were in the opening segments of the game. It just pisses.me the Hell off despite my normaaly sunshiney demeanor.

Bill B

Mr. Sunshine (better watch out, that’s the kind of name that will stick with a guy),
I am torn between common sense, where the winner gets the most points (period), and rewarding those who ran the best all race at the expense of common sense.

If the winner ran in the top 10/15 most of the day (like Newman did) and wins the race, then I think they should walk away with the most points.

On the other hand, if someone has ran in the 20’s or 30’s all day, then happens to win the race because of fuel mileage or rain (or some other ridiculous condition allowing them to back into the win), then I have a much easier time awarding those who actually performed better more points.

As for non-fans and casual fans understanding, ever since NASCAR started worrying more about them than diehard fans, who cares what they think? Although, “non fans can’t understand the convoluted rules”, is a good argument when you need a reason to support your point of view (and I reserve the right to use it in the future…hahaha).


i use to have a boss i referred to as mr. sunshine cause he was really a Curmudgeon. more than once i would ask him “who pooped in your wheaties this morning”. he’s retired.


we should have interesting read from you tomorrow?

imagine darrell and mikey trying to explain the points to people.

something creepy about mikey and the moster girl with the umbrella.

car accident i was in 3 weeks ago that broke my shoulder enables me to sleep through the race with my pain pills. with as much pain as i have with this (4 mos recovery time says ortho doc)….i don’t want to think of racing like the guys use to with broken and battered bodies.


Sorry, no interesting read from me tomorrow. Discussing the Custer-Dillon feud (why does that sound like an Eagles song title?) and re-running a good portion of an old historic column to discuss earlier episodes of bad temper in the sport’s history back when men were men. Oh, and of course I badly sprained two fingers falling ion the ice on my way home from the neighbors Saturday. The good news is both are on my left hand. The bad news is I’m left-handed.
Tom, head FS Puba is enraged over my duplicity. I’ve never seen him so enraged. He’s foaming at the mouth and tearing out handfuls of his hair. Until that hurt too much so he started tearing out handfuls of Amy’s hair. You all need to send him some good vibes by Tweeting “Peace Love and Understanding” to his Twitter account @NASCARBowles
Sorry to hear about your wreck. Watch those pain pills. Watch a nephew prescribed Oxycondone after a motorcycle wreck shattered his leg descend into the hell of heroin addiction. (He’s now two plus years clean, is married and has a baby girl.) Yet today at the Doc in the Box after they did the X ray and exam they offered me a prescription for 20 Oxy 100 Mgs. Told em thanks, but let me see how Tylenol works first.


i cut my pain pills in half and take when it’s intolerable. carrying vacuum cleaner to 2nd floor of house was not on my list of approved activities. i’m not supposed to life ANYTHING….well the carpet needed it. what can i say.

Capt Spaulding

Thanks for saving me a click for tomorrow.

Carl D.

Whoever designed this new points system needs to run a money laundering racket… no one, including the top investigators at the FBI, would be able to figure it out. Not only are there race winners, stage winners, and top-ten stage finishers, there are race points, championship points and playoff points. I’m resigned to just letting Nascar tell me who the winner is at the end of the season and taking their word for it (it’s not like I care all that much anyway). Keeping up with the new system is harder than trying to play bridge, which I don’t play because I don’t understand the rules and I don’t know how to bet on it. Remember when Brian France did away with the Latford system because he said it was too complicated for todays Nascar fans? Hell, this new system makes Bob Latford’s old system read like “See Spot run”. I’m going to just focus on who wins the race at the end of the day and season championship be damned. I have a South Carolina public school education; I’m not equipment for this. Sorry, Matt, but you hit a nerve.


Yeah, but Newman got the playoff birth and the 5 playoff points for the win. I don’t think he’s upset. I’m sorry I like this bonus point system. I like seeing teams that run up front all day get rewarded. It’s better than cheap bonus points for leading a lap.

Kevin in SoCal

“Phoenix was another example of how this new aero package is greatly rewarding clean air.”

So… new aero package, same old problems?


I love how you all keep complaining about the points. Weren’t you the ones not so long ago stating that it doesn’t matter what the points are until after the race is over? Its not that hard. If you run up front all day, you get rewarded with more points, even if you don’t finish well. You would think people would be happy about that. But I think some Nascar fans just love to complain and will never be happy. If you don’t like it, just check the point standings at the end of the race and call it good. It bothers me more that people are saying that Larson is the points leader, even though 4 drivers are already locked in to the playoffs ahead of him.

Can someone please explain to me why New Hampshire is always crapped on for their races but Phoenix always gets a pass, even though its pretty much the same track with the same type of racing? Sundays race was just as bad as any race at NH, but nobody says a word about it. It can’t be attendance because the place was empty on Sunday. And just because the last few laps were exciting doesn’t change that. So why does Phoenix get a pass?

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