It wasn’t exactly like the curious case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Ryan Newman at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but it was close.
Newman, the driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), battled an ill-handling car Sunday afternoon that just two days earlier sat on the pole for the Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Newman overcame a late-race pit road miscue and also maneuvered the car with a split personality to bring home a respectable 16th-place finish.
“I still don’t understand what happened with the car,” Newman said. “It just never drove the same after we won the pole on Friday afternoon. Even in practice on Saturday. Glad we got back up to 16th after the deal on pit road, but I don’t know. We’ll head to Dover and see what we can get.”
When the green flag dropped, Newman led the first two trips around the 1.058-mile oval before surrendering the lead to Kasey Kahne on lap three of the 300-mile race, eventually settling into a rhythm in fourth place for the first several laps. While he maintained a top-five running position, Newman reported the car was loose entering and exiting the turns. He also was having a hard time with the car’s front splitter hitting the track. Those problems persisted for the entire race.
The handling problems were compounded by a pit stop miscue during a caution on lap 200. In an effort to improve the handling, the pit crew was directed to make a wedge adjustment while changing left-side tires and adding fuel. But the team went the wrong way with the chassis adjustment, making the car’s handling even more unstable and dropping Newman to 25th place in the running order.
A lap 245 caution presented the team with the opportunity to tackle the handling on the Quicken Loans Chevy. Crew Chief Matt Borland directed a series of adjustments trying to get the car back to the setup that existed at the start of the race. More importantly, he called for a four-tire stop while a number of teams running at the front of the field chose two-tire and fuel-only stops. Newman was in 26th place when green-flag racing resumed and put in a workman-like effort during the closing laps to position the No. 39 Chevy in 16th when the checkered flag waved.
Mark Martin, interim driver of SHR’s No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS as he subs for the injured Tony Stewart, finished 23rd.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 27th. It was Patrick’s 38th career Sprint Cup start and her second at New Hampshire. Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished three spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 24th.
Matt Kenseth won the Sylvania 300 to score his 31st career Sprint Cup victory, his series-best seventh of the season and his first at New Hampshire.
Kyle Busch finished .533 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-five. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Vickers, Jeff Burton, Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 37 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 300-lap race.
Newman is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and entered the second race of the 10-race Chase eighth among the 13 Chase drivers, 28 points behind Chase leader Kenseth. Newman leaves New Hampshire ninth in the standings, 47 points behind Kenseth.