Ryan Newman battled an ill-handling racecar and finished a disappointing 18th in the Save Mart 350k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at the 1.99-mile road course at Sonoma, Calif.
About the only highlight for Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans/Children’s Tumor Foundation Chevy, was when he moved from 23rd to 18th during the two-lap green-white-checkered restart at the end of the race. As the first car one lap down when the caution came out on lap 108 due to spins by Paul Menard and Kyle Busch, Newman was allowed to gain his lap back via the “lucky dog” rule and restart 23rd and on the lead lap.
Knowing he would be the last car on the lead lap, Newman headed to pit lane before the restart for four fresh tires. The extra grip enabled him to pick off five cars before the checkered flag flew.
While the race ended on a somewhat positive note for the Quicken Loans/Children’s Tumor Foundation team, the rest of it was a struggle.
After starting 10th, Newman reported early that his car had no rear grip and he began falling down the running order. Newman tumbled even further when he spun in turn 11 on lap 18 and dropped to 23rd.
From there, he spent much of the race battling a tight racecar in the slow sections of the course and a loose car in the fast sections.
Newman’s SHR teammate, Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, finished second to score his seventh top-five result of 2012 and his fifth top-five in 14 career Sprint Cup starts at the 10-turn, 1.99-mile layout.
Clint Bowyer won the Save Mart 350k to score his sixth career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his first at Sonoma.
Stewart finished .829 of a second behind Bowyer in the runner-up spot, while Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, A.J. Allmendinger and Joey Logano comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were two caution periods for a total of seven laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 112-lap race, which was extended two laps by a green-white-checkered finish.
With round 16 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR duo in the championship point standings. He moved up three spots to fifth and has 533 points, 63 back of series leader Matt Kenseth and one point ahead of sixth-place Kevin Harvick. Newman remained 13th and has 453 points, which puts him 143 points behind Kenseth and 37 behind 10th-place Brad Keselowski.