Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart started 1-2 in Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and not even a fuel crisis, a wild jumble of divergent strategies or a crew chief with pneumonia could prevent them from finishing that way.
“One hell of a day, boys—one hell of a day,” Stewart radioed to his team as he approached the finish line .773 seconds behind his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate.
Both drivers helped themselves immensely in their respective quests for berths in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, as Newman posted his first victory of the year, his third at the 1.058-mile track and the 15th of his career.
“We backed up what everybody said we couldn’t back up, and that was our qualifying effort on Friday,” Newman said. “We put it on ’em today. We don’t put it on ’em every weekend, so we need to relish this moment and figure out what we did right so we can keep doing it.”
Denny Hamlin came home third, followed by Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson. Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Martin Truex Jr., Marcos Ambrose and Kurt Busch completed the top 10.
Newman and Stewart scored their first 1-2 finish in their third season as teammates in the organization Stewart co-owns. It was the first time since June 2006 at Pocono that the two drivers who started a race 1-2 finished in the same positions, a feat accomplished then by Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch.
After pitting for the last time on Lap 217 of 301, Newman did an excellent job saving fuel. Stewart, who came to the pits under caution nine laps later, charged through the field but used up his equipment by the time he secured the second position from Hamlin with eight laps left.
“I can promise you, I didn’t leave anything out there,” Stewart said. “That was as hard as I could run ’til the end. I couldn’t get the rest of the way. I couldn’t get any further than that. I got in a period when I caught Jeff Gordon—I think he was running fourth or fifth at the time—I got to his bumper, but I couldn’t really do anything. I ran about three laps where I kept slipping the rear of the car, just got the tires hot.
“I basically had to back away from him and run my pace again, just let everything cool down. Then we made that second charge at him and were able to get by him and keep marching forward. The problem was, to do what we did to get a second, I mean, I used everything up getting there. That was as far and as close to Ryan as I could get.”
Stewart had special praise for his crew chief, Darian Grubb.
“They told him yesterday he’s got pneumonia,” Stewart said. “He’s battling through a weekend like this, never missed a beat on the box today.”
Hamlin also backed off and saved fuel in the closing laps to ensure a top-five finish.
“Obviously, I was running the 39 (Newman) down,” Hamlin said. “The crew chief (Mike Ford) is screaming that we’ve got to back off. At that point, you have to think about the risk vs. reward.
“As bad as I wanted to go up there and race those guys, I had to make the smart move and finish the race.”
Notes: Newman is the 13th different winner in 19 Cup races this season. Last year, there were 13 different winners in the full 36-race season. … Kyle Busch finished 36th after blowing a tire, slamming into the Turn 2 wall and losing 76 laps while his car was repaired. Busch dropped from first to fifth in the series standings, 20 behind leader Carl Edwards, who ran 13th Sunday.