Event: AAA Texas 500 (Round 34 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (1.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 36th/12th (Running, completed 335 of 335 laps in a green-white-checkered finish)
Point Standing: 14th (969 points, 79 out of 13th)
Winner: Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
For the second consecutive week, Ryan Newman and the Quicken Loans Racing team staged an impressive comeback, scoring a solid 12th-place finish in the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Newman, who started 36th, recovered from a loose right-front wheel that dropped him from the top-10 to 25th place with just 110 laps remaining.
It was Newman’s 21st top-15 finish this season, his eighth top-15 in 19 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas and his second straight top-12 effort since being reunited with former crew chief Matt Borland last weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
“We came a long way from where we were at the start of the weekend,” said Newman after the race. “We were really off both days and qualified in the back. The guys made a lot of changes to the car last night and this morning. We ended up with a pretty good little Quicken Loans Chevrolet. Then to get back all the spots that we lost when we had to pit a second time under caution for the loose wheel was pretty impressive. It was a great effort by everyone on the team, and I’m proud of our effort.”
A loose racecar led to a 36th-place qualifying effort for Newman on Friday. Once the race started, it wasn’t long before Newman reported his racecar was free entering turns, tight in the center and loose exiting the corners. Despite climbing up the field, he reported the car’s handling issues were getting worse throughout the run.
Borland decided to keep Newman on track as long as possible as green-flag pit stops cycled through. Newman led one lap before pitting for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. He returned to the track in 24th place.
Newman gained positions and moved into the top-20, but the balance of the racecar still was too loose. So when Newman pitted at lap 95, the team took four tires, fuel, track bar and air pressure adjustments.
Just four laps later, the caution flag waved at lap 99. Since Newman had so few laps on his tires, Borland told Newman to stay out. When the race restarted at lap 104, Newman was out front and led for two laps under green.
Thanks to the pit strategy call by Borland, Newman had better track position. He was able to maintain a spot in the top-15 over the course of the next 100 laps.
When the caution flag waved at lap 223, Newman told Borland his car’s balance wasn’t bad. He was strong in the high groove of the racetrack but could not run on the bottom. He also reported his Quicken Loans Chevy improved on longer runs. So Newman opted for no changes to the racecar.
Newman came out of the pits 10th. But once up to speed on the racetrack, he felt a loose right-front wheel. So he gave up his top-10 spot to return to pit road under caution at lap 225 to get two right-side tires. Newman was forced to restart 25th on lap 227.
Mired in traffic, Newman fought his way to 17th place by lap 321, when the caution flag waved again. Just before that caution, Newman tagged the wall with the right rear of his car, which caused his car’s handling to tighten dramatically.
With less than 15 laps remaining, Borland had Newman come to the pits for right-side tires with increased air pressure to help Newman accelerate quicker. The crew also made a track bar adjustment to help the tight handling.
Newman restarted in 15th place and was able to gain three spots through the green-white-checkered finish to end up 12th.
Newman’s SHR teammate, Tony Stewart, finished fifth in the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet to earn his 12th top-five finish of 2012.
SHR driver Danica Patrick, who is driving the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing via a collaborative agreement with SHR, finished 24th in her first Sprint Cup race at Texas. It was her best career Sprint Cup finish, coming in her ninth start.
Jimmie Johnson won the AAA Texas 500 to score his 60th career Sprint Cup victory, his fifth of the season and his second at Texas. The win marked the 700th Sprint Cup victory for Chevrolet and made Johnson only the eighth driver in Sprint Cup Series history to record 60 or more wins.
Brad Keselowski finished .808 of a second behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Stewart rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 49 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 335-lap race, which was extended one lap by a green-white-checkered finish.
Stewart is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and came into the eighth race of the 10-race Chase in 10th place among the 12 Chase drivers, 71 points behind Chase leader Johnson. Stewart leaves Texas eighth in the standings, 80 points behind Johnson, who remained in the top spot.
Newman moved up one spot to 14th place in the standings. He has 969 points, 79 back of 13th-place Kyle Busch.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the penultimate race of the 10-race Chase – is the Advocare 500k on Nov. 11 at Phoenix International Raceway. The race begins at 3 p.m. EST, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with a pre-race show at 2 p.m.
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