NASCAR Cup: pit strategy pays off for Ryan Newman at Phoenix
Ryan Newman celebrates in victory lane at Phoenix International Raceway after winning the Camping World 500 on March 19, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
A call by crew chief Luke Lambert to leave Ryan Newman out on the race track during an overtime caution in the Camping World 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday was the right call, as it led to Newman’s first win since 2013. It also was Richard Childress Racing’s first Cup win since that same year, the year before Newman joined the team.
“What a gutsy call by Luke, “Newman said. “I called for two tires, and he called for none. I’ve won more races no tires than I have with four. I’m just proud of these guys. We had a good car all day. We kept it out of trouble and collected in the end.”
Kyle Busch was leading the race at the time of the late-race caution for a Joey Logano blown tire, but he, along with most of the lead lap cars pitted for two tires. Newman was one of three drivers to stay out, as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. also opted to remain on the race track. Busch restarted fifth after Kyle Larson beat him off pit road.
Larson got up to second on the restart and Busch to third and finished in those positions. For Larson, the runner-up finish was his third-straight second-place finish and his fourth in the last five races, dating back to last season’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Dang it. I wish I wouldn’t have gotten sideways there in (turns) one and two, and I would have stayed close enough to Newman, and I probably would have got him down in three and four, coming to the white (flag),” Larson said. “You never know, though. That’s how the races play out. Maybe I made a mistake, there. This one stings, because I feel like I was in the best spot out of anybody, there, to line up fourth on two tires. But it’s really, really cool to be the point leader right now. That was a goal of mine going into today, so thanks to everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing for all your hard work. We’ll, hopefully, continue to have this speed in our race cars and, maybe, close some of these races out.”
For Busch, the third-place finish came after leading a race-high 114 laps.
“Everything’s great; we got a top-five, and that’s what we set out to do today, and we got a third, so we should be pumped about that and how good this Skittles Camry ran today,” Busch said. “It was awesome there at the end, and the guys made some really good calls there at the end. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys did a good job being able to make some good adjustments and make it feel better once we got out front. Thanks to my pit crew; the car really liked clean air.”
Joey Logano started on the pole and led throughout the first 75-lap stage of the race and took the first stage win. he led the first 83 laps of the race before losing out in a three-wide battle with Chase Elliott and Larson for the lead early in the second stage. Elliott took the lead and ran up front throughout stage two and claimed the first stage win of the season for Chevrolet.
After losing the lead to Elliott, Logano drifted back a few additional positions, and a pit-road speeding penalty put him in the back of the top-20 for most of the remainder of the race.
“We had a good car in the beginning of the race, and then, just fell off and got a pit-road speeding penalty, and it was hard to get back up there,” Logano said. “We were getting closer, but our long-run speed was off. We have to figure out how to get faster here on the long run.”
After the second stage, Busch restarted the race in fourth. He, then, got up to third on the restart, and on lap 121, passed Larson for second. A lap later, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth blew a tire and hit the wall, bringing out another caution. Busch got off pit road first during the caution and maintain his lead until the late-race caution for Logano’s blown tire.
Stenhouse finished fourth, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick finished sixth, Daniel Suarez was seventh, Erik Jones eighth and Jimmie Johnson was ninth.
Another JGR driver, Denny Hamlin, finished 10th after driving from the back toward the front twice in the race. A punctured tire during qualifying on Friday forced Hamlin’s No. 11 team to change tires between qualifying and the race. As a result, Hamlin had to start in the back. After racing into the top-five, Hamlin cut down a tire just past lap 200, putting him in the back, again.