Spencer: Loudon is Newman’s territory
Ryan Newman is going for the double at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
He accomplished the first challenge by winning the pole Saturday, just as he did in July. The Rocketman’s lap of 135.002 mph in qualifying Saturday earned him a record sixth pole at New Hampshire.
After winning the New Hampshire pole earlier this season, he went on to win the Lenox Industrial Tools 301. Now, Newman is looking to sweep the Sprint Cup races in the Granite State with a win Sunday in the Sylvania 300.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say we were excited about coming back. We are bringing the same race car,” Newman said. “That does not mean we are going to come back and do the same things we did at the first race, but I feel like we will have a good opportunity. New Hampshire has always been a good racetrack for me personally, and our team is really strong at short tracks.”
Newman captured his first career Cup win at the “Magic Mile” in 2002.
Historically, Newman has thrived on shorter, flat tracks. He led 119 laps here in July on the way to his first win of the season. At Phoenix in February, he posted his first of eight top-five finishes for the year and was stout at Richmond, as well.
But in the past 10 races, Newman has finished outside of the top 12 just twice. He finished eighth last week in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup opener at Chicagoland Speedway — not far behind his boss and winner, Tony Stewart.
“It is a good feeling, we had at least a third-place car going at least there toward the end, if we had had enough fuel,” Newman said. “We had a car that was as good as Stewart’s; he just had a little bit better fuel mileage. I think it was a great feeling knowing that we had two cars that were capable of winning, and when Tony won the first race of the year, first race of the Chase that was obviously good timing of all things.
“If we had of ran 1-2 that would have been the best situation, but even though we finished eighth, we had a better car than that. As I said then, it was disappointing for us to finish where we did because that was the worst we ran all day long was the last lap. Just really proud of everybody at Stewart-Hass to start the Chase on a good note.”
Stewart and Newman are currently second and seventh, respectively, in the points standings. While Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, has the ultimate job security, Newman’s contract is up next season. So the pressure is on for Newman to produce in the next nine races.
While Talladega is a crapshoot and seven of the 12 Chase drivers have not run on the newly repaved Phoenix International Raceway, Newman’s run at Chicagoland Speedway — one of five intermediate races in the Chase — should prove to be a solid indicator as to how the No. 39 Army team will perform on the other four 1.5-mile tracks.
“I was really proud of our performance because we haven’t run well at racetracks like that, as well as like Chicago,” said Newman who led 18 laps at the track — the most on any intermediate venue in 2011. “It was a good rebound for us. Gives us more confidence going into places like Charlotte, Kansas and even Homestead to a degree.
“It’s still a 10-race stretch. It’s still made up a lot of mile-and-a-half race tracks, intermediate-style racetracks. I don’t think it changes the outcome of a champion as it does the initial momentum that you can have after the first race or two.”
Given Newman’s history at NHIS and his performance at Chicagoland, Sunday’s race could provide the 33-year-old racer with a springboard to his first Sprint Cup championship.
LOOKING TO REBOUND
Jeff Gordon entered the Chase as one of the hottest racers on the Sprint Cup tour.
No doubt his 24th-place finish at Chicagoland stole a little wind from his sails. The four-time champion dropped from third to 11th in the points standings and trails points leader Kevin Harvick by 25 points.
“Obviously, the first race did not go so well for us at Chicago,” Gordon said. “We’ve got some work to do and this is a great place for us to come to get that done. Look forward to the challenges that we are going to face over the next nine weeks and what we are capable of doing.”
Gordon, along with Newman, Kurt Busch and teammate Jimmie Johnson, have three career wins apiece at New Hampshire. Jeff Burton leads the Cup tour with four Loudon wins. But Gordon, who rolls off seventh for Sunday’s Sylvania 300 is confident about the one-mile track, where he has led a series-high 1,226 laps and has an average finish of 11th.
Gordon hopes to exact revenge at New Hampshire, particularly after electrical issues plagued the No. 24 Chevrolet here in July. Gordon led 19 laps and had mounted a three-second lead over the field halfway through the race when he was forced to pit for a battery change and, with a faulty alternator, was limited in the use of his fans. Gordon came from a lap back to the top five but blew out a tire with two laps remaining and soldiered back to finish 11th.
“We had a fast car that day, and I’m really looking forward to going back,” said Gordon. “Even after losing the lap because of the battery change, we were still able to work our way up through traffic pretty well. I wasn’t able to run any blowers, and I think that’s what blew the right front at the end of the race.
“Hopefully, we don’t have any issues like that Sunday.”
WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD
Goodyear has selected its tire for Phoenix International Raceway.
Stu Grant, Goodyear’s general manager/Worldwide Racing, said that when the Sprint Cup tour returns to PIR for the two-day test, Oct. 4-5, teams will use the same left-side tires as they did at Indianapolis. They also will go with a right side similar to what they used in Indy in terms of construction, compound and mold, but with a little different gauge and tread thickness for heat resistance.
There’s also been a change at Goodyear. After a half-century of working with Huggins Tire Sales in High Point, NC, the company is streamlining its distribution network to four partners — Carroll Shelby Enterprises (West), Carter-Maxwell Inc. (Southwest), Competition Tire East (Northeast) and Competition Tire West (Midwest).
30: Victories earned by Kyle Busch in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series — the second-best record on the tour.
165: Laps Kyle Busch led of the scheduled 175 circuits in Saturday’s truck race.
2: Advantage in points Austin Dillon holds over James Buescher in the truck standings.
29.154: Seconds — the fastest lap in happy hour posted by David Stremme of Inception Motorsports.