A bold fuel strategy call in the waning laps of Sunday’s 400-mile race at Michigan International Speedway helped boost Ryan Newman to a 12th-place finish in his Wyndham Rewards Ford Mustang. The veteran driver used his ample fuel supply to gain 16 positions in the final 50 laps of the race as competitors faltered around him. The finish puts Newman in 15th-place of the points standings, firmly inside the playoff cutline by 16 points with ‘regular’ season races remaining at Bristol, Darlington and Indianapolis.
Newman began the day in the 20th position, with his Ford Mustang too loose to go full throttle through the wide turns of the Irish Hills, but was able to battle his way up to 17th by the end of the caution-free first stage. The Wyndham Rewards pit crew executed a quick two-tire stop at the break, allowing Newman to restart from the tenth position. Unfortunately, the adjustment wrench failed to engage with the springs of the car, leaving the Mustang with shakier handling than before. With his car as loose as it would be all day, Newman was unable to hold his position and fell to twentieth, where he would finish the second segment.
The team would put the Indiana native out in the 22nd position for the final stage and, with the handling of his car finally dialed in, Newman would rocket forward to the twelfth position. A caution with fifty laps to go presented a strategic dilemma for teams, with the remaining distance on the edge of a full fuel cycle.
Crew chief Scott Graves made the bold decision to bring the Ford Mustang down pit road a second time during the caution, sacrificing track position to ensure that Newman would have the edge in a fuel mileage finish. Though he would restart 28th with precious few laps remaining to move forward, the veteran driver would wheel his way to a 12th-place finish in Michigan.