Team owner Tony Stewart met Race Winner Ryan Newman in Victory Lane with the biggest smile we’ve seen on his face all season long.Ã‚Â Newman makes the 13th different driver to snag in win in the 19th race of the season, and with only 7 races to go before the chase it could not have happened at a better time for the driver of the #39 Army car.Ã‚Â With sponsorship once again on the line, putting a W in the win column will go a long way to re-securing this sponsor for next year as well.Ã‚Â The Army has supported the No. 39 car since the Stewart-Haas Racing organization debuted at Daytona in 2009.
While other teams were slowing down and conserving fuel to make it to the end, Newman and Stewart were running flat out giving the fans a race at the end of the Lennox Industrial Tools 301 in Loudon New Hampshire.Ã‚Â So what did Newman have to say to all the nay sayers who said he couldn’t back up his qualifying effort with a win?
“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.”
”This is huge for our team, even bigger for our organization,” Newman said. ”It puts us in a lot better position that’s for sure.”
Moving up one position from 9th to 8th Newman can breathe a little easier with only 7 races to go before the points get reset for the chase as he moves into a better position to be locked in to the top 10 at the end of the regular season.
But how did he feel with his boss breathing down his next for the final few laps of the race?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I’d rather have Stewart behind me than anybody else,Ã¢â‚¬Â Newman said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have a lot of respect for him. I know the way he races. If we were side by side coming to the checkered, we’d have smoke coming off the fenders . . . We’re not going to crash each other, but that’s the kind of guys we are.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Looking in the mirror seeing that Mobil 1 Chevy was music in my ears. I know he’s going to respect me, respect our situation. It never came down to it, but I’m glad that it didn’t, but he was one I didn’t mind seeing in my mirror.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Stewart was all smiles during the interview session after the race.Ã‚Â A smile that has been missing for much of the season as the team has had some really bad luck in 2011 so far.Ã‚Â Tied for 10th in points with Denny Hamlin, but marked as 11th since Denny has a win, Stewart also moved towards a better points finish and improved his chances for locking in a chase spot before seasons end.
”It’s no secret we’ve been struggling this year,” Stewart said. ”But it really shows me the depth of the people we got in our organization. It’s been one of the weirdest years as far as weird things and bad luck happening to both of us.”
“I think hindsight being 20/20, I don’t mind running second and having Ryan win the race versus us winning the race and him running out of fuel,” Stewart said. “This is a much more gratifying weekend for me.
“I was happy, period. I mean, you know when you’re in that situation as an organization; it can’t get any better than that. I can promise you, I didn’t leave anything out there. That was as hard as I could run till the end. I couldn’t get the rest of the way. I couldn’t get any further than that.”
“This was the perfect weekend to have Ryan on the pole and us on the front row and to sit here and get our first, first and second finish — it’s just an awesome day for Stewart-Haas Racing,” Stewart said. “These cars have been good, we just needed one weekend where we didn’t have something stupid go wrong and it happened for both of us.”
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.”
Denny Hamlin finished 3rd and was wishing he had the fuel to run flat out like the 2 guys he was chasing.Ã‚Â After surviving some big issues of his own and recovering from a race low position of 31st, Hamlin has to ease back at the end to conserve fuel and finish the race before he ran out.
”As bad as I wanted to go up there and race those guys, I had to make the smart move and finish the race,” Hamlin said.
“We had to do some different kind of strategy to get the kind of day we wanted,” Hamlin said. “We fought for track position all day. We knew our car was good, but we had absolutely no track position. So we had to do what we had to do — and that was save fuel.
“It’s tough when you want to run a guy likeÃ‚Â RyanÃ‚Â down there at the end, but you’ve got your crew chief screaming at you that you’ve got to slow down and save fuel. I was doing it the whole last run, so I’d be interested to see how much [fuel] we have left. If we can see where we’re at with that, maybe next time I’m in a situation like that we can run a little bit harder.”
Joey Logano finished 4th, but it was Jimmie Johnson’s comments after his 5th place finish that made a lot of people see that there are some cracks in the armor of the defending 5 Time Consecutive Champion.
“We started off with a bad qualifying effort on Friday, and we paid the price for that on pit road and in track position at the start,” said Johnson. “Then with the 42 [car driven by Montoya], I don’t think the three times he’s wrecked me it’s been intentional. But he’s out of mulligans. I’ve had enough of, ‘Hey, I’m sorry you’re spun out.’ It’s happened way too often, so hopefully we can get that corrected.
“We just didn’t have speed. It was frustrating,” Johnson said. “We would run some good laps and from a fuel standpoint, the balance was good — but we were slow. And that’s the worst kind of deficit you can have. If there is a dramatic loose or tight condition, it’s easy. You just go to work.
“This started toward the end of the Chase last year. We’d run as hard as we could and just didn’t have the speed.Ã‚Â Well, you look at the result and there’s nothing to complain about there. We made up a lot of points on guys that were ahead of us [Sunday],” said Johnson,now sitting second in the point standings, seven behind Carl Edwards who has retaken the lead. “But if you look at the journey and plotted a chart of where we started to where we finished, that thing’s all over the place — and we can’t have that. I’m in harm’s way week in and week out, trying to get to the front.Ã‚Â And when it comes to the Chase, you need to dodge all those wild situations as often as possible. Qualifying poorly and having bad things happen that affect your track position are not the path to a championship.”