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Newman Emerges From Wild Finish To Win M’ville

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Sunday, April 1 2012

Ryan Newman cashed in on green/white/checkered mayhem Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Sharon Ellman)

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Ryan Newman inherited the lead after a wreck during a green/white/checkered restart collected the race leaders, held the lead during a second overtime restart and went on to win Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

The victory was the first of the year for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver – who overcame a speeding penalty early in the race – and the 16th of his career.

“t was an awesome finish for us,” Newman said. “We got circumstances there plus we were in the right position.”

Finishing second was Dale Earnhardt Jr. of Hendrick Motorsports.

Third was AJ Allmendinger of Penske Racing.

Fourth was Brad Keselowski while Martin Truex Jr. was fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Aric Almiroloa and Tony Stewart.

But the driver who may have decided the race was David Reutimann, who tried to finish the race with a failing car but stopped on the track with four laps left to bring out a caution.

Reutiman said he was just trying to finish in an attempt to keep his car in the top 35 in owner points and that his engine quit on the back stretch and could not get back to the pits before it stopped.

“I hate it,” he said, apologizing to all affected.

Before the caution came out, Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon were first and second, battling for the victory and virtually assured of finishing 1-2 respectively.

But on the Reutimann-induced restart, a big wreck occurred at the front of the field heading into Turn 1 and both Hendrick cars were involved.

“Well, I don’t know what happened,” Earnhardt said of incident. “The No. 15 (Clint Bowyer) dove to the bottom and it’s his right. He was doing what he wanted to do to try and win the race. It’s a green-white-checkered and that’s what you’re going to get here. So I think Clint did what he had to do. It just caused a little bit of trouble on the outside down there and we ran into the No. 24 (Gordon). But I just don’t know what the No.10 (Reutimann) was thinking with a broken sway bar and driving around there at 15 mph for two or three laps. Come on pit road; hell, how many laps down are you? Get on pit road. Get out of the race. It shouldn’t have ended like that. It was unfortunate.”

Gordon’s first instinct was to blame Bowyer.

But after talking with the Michael Waltrip Racing driver, Gordon backed off.

“I will be honest; Clint (Bowyer) and I have had some great races over the years.” Gordon said. “I mean tight battles running sideways there is nobody I respect more from just racing hard out there than him. I feel like he has the same for me. When he explained what happened and he is already just hard to get mad at because the guy is just so funny (laughs). We weren’t laughing right there, but I was glad I was able to talk to him before I talked to anybody else.”

Newman said no, he would not have won had the Reutimann stall not brought out the caution.

“I don’t know why he did what he did or if he was stuck in that position,” Newman said. “It worked out for us. We were going to be a sixth place car at best at that point. Whether no matter what happened, it’s not the first time somebody stopped on a straightaway with a few laps to go and forced us into a green-white-checker restart at the end of the race.”

Kasey Kahne , the fourth Hendrick driver, started the race on the pole but could not hold his lead as he was passed by Kevin Harvick off of Turn 4.

Failing to lead a lap was only the beginning of Kahne’s problems. Engine problems ended his day early.

“We had a great Hendrickcars.com Chevy,” Kahne, who has started to races from the pole this season but has yet to lead a lap, said. “Really fast and the best I had ever been here. Engine was running great and we were just battling a little loose. We needed another pit stop to get that right and we could battle with Jeff (Gordon). It was fun driving and we had a small engine problem that turned into a big one on the backstretch and just shut off and I had oil on my tires when I hit pit road. I just didn’t want to oil the whole surface for all the guys out there so I just shot to the pits and it went spinning and it wasn’t a big deal because I didn’t hit anything luckily.”

On lap 21, Gordon passed Harvick for the lead. Gordon, a seven-time winner at Martinsville, held the lead for 322 laps.

Johnson pried the lead away from Gordon on lap 356. He held the lead for seven laps, but the yellow flag waved and Hamlin came out of the pits at the head of the field.

On lap 393, with 107 to go, Johnson, after going door-to-door with Hamlin for severla laps, eased back into the lead.

Johnson held the lead on the track until he was passed with three laps to go by Gordon. Right after that, the caution flag came out to set up the first green/white/checkered restart. On that restart, the two Hendrick cars started next to each other on the front row.

On the restart, both Gordon – who led 329 laps – and Johnson had trouble getting to speed on old tires and Clint Bowyer attempt to pass both on the low side. Contact was made and all spun out.

“Those two guys were on 100-and-some-lap tires,” Kenseth said, “so I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty honestly.”

Newman was there to collect the lead and then the victory.

“We were not a dominant race car today but we put ourselves in contention,” Newman said. “The way the strategy and everything worked out, coming in for two tires and Clint kind of clearing out turn one for us, we were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.

“We have been in that position here and been in the wrong place at the wrong time and it’s nice to be able to at least balance it out and get Outback in victory lane. That was really special for us, their first race with the team and if we get in the Top 10, we get free Bloomin’ Onions if you go to Outback and mention my name. Not sure, they might be rethinking that after this week.”

(This story will be updated shortly)

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Sunday, April 1 2012
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