“Rollercoaster” two weeks end happily for Brickyard winner Newman

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From being told he’d be let go to becoming the Brickyard 400 champion, the last two weeks have been full of peaks and valleys for Ryan Newman.

Going into the Sprint Cup weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Newman was informed by boss and teammate Tony Stewart that his five-year run at Stewart-Haas Racing would be coming to a close at the end of the season. Shortly after Stewart’s decision, the “Rocket Man” said that he had no idea what kind of change would come for him.

His next race, the Camping World RV Sales 301 at NHMS, ended with him spinning into the wall and then led to a bizarre war of words with an agitated Kyle Busch. It was definitely not the ideal way to go into the final off-weekend of the year, but Newman still appreciated the chance to get his mind settled.

“The emotions have been an absolute rollercoaster,” Newman said on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Loudon was a disaster. We got crashed out, everything that was said. We got through all that stuff, talked about it…That weekend off, I think was good timing, to be able to hit control, alt, delete.”

Then came Indy, the track he wanted to win at since he was a child. Growing up, Newman not only witnessed the 1986 Indianapolis 500 in the stands, but also chatted with Jeff Gordon and Ken Schrader during NASCAR’s first tests at the fabled course in the early 1990s.

Those moments went a long way toward putting Newman on the path to stock car stardom – and eventually, to immortality as a winner at Indianapolis. After taking the Brickyard pole from Jimmie Johnson on Saturday, he then took the race from him on Sunday with the help of a strong race car and a critical, two-tire call from crew chief Matt Borland on his final pit stop (not to mention Johnson’s long final stop of his own).

Newman made sure to credit Borland and everyone else who contributed to, perhaps, the race of his life.

“Matt did an amazing job to come here with a fast race car [and] give me what I needed,” he said. “We all did it together. Not just the guys here, but the guys at the shop, the pit crew. You all know it’s a huge team sport.”

Sunday’s win didn’t change the fact that he’s still basically a free agent looking for a new ride. But it’s likely that Newman’s stock will rise considerably among teams that are looking for their next driver; in that aspect, he came up big at the best possible time.

The process of choosing where he’ll end up in 2014 and beyond will soon start for him. But that can wait for now.

“There’s a lot of questions to be answered,” he said. “We’ll get through all that. But today, we’re celebrating a victory.”

Sage Karam, Tony Kanaan fastest in Monday’s practice for Indy 500

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In the second-to-last practice session of the week, Sage Karam paced the 33 drivers qualified for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 on Monday.

Karam had a field-best speed of 226.461 mph, followed by Tony Kanan (225.123 mph), Ryan Hunter-Reay (224.820), Charlie Kimball (224.582) and Alexander Rossi (224.507).

Sixth through 10th fastest were Will Power (224.445), Helio Castroneves (224.368), Marco Andretti (224.148) and rookie Zachary Claman Demelo (224.91) and Scott Dixon (223.966).

Power and Castroneves ran the most laps of all drivers at 120 and 118, respectively.

Two other Team Penske drivers struggled to get speed out of their cars. Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was 28th-fastest (221.982 mph) and Simon Pagenaud, who was the slowest (220.902 mph) of the 33 cars on-track.

Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was 14th-fastest with a best speed of 223.573 mph in a 100-lap effort.

Most drivers were in race trim or were testing things for Sunday’s Greatest Spectacle In Racing such as fuel mileage, chassis setup and more.

Rookie Matheus Leist missed most of the session with an apparent electrical problem that kept him to just 19 laps.

There was one incident of note during the 3 ½ hour session: IndyCar rookie Robert Wickens crashed coming out of Turn 2 during the first hour of practice.

Wickens appeared to skim the outside SAFER Barrier, went left and then violently turned hard back into the outside retaining wall.

MORE: Wickens wrecks during Indy 500 practice

The Honda-powered machine for the Canadian driver suffered heavy damage to the right side, particularly the right front tire and the right side of the front end.

There will be no further on-track activity for the Indy cars until Friday’s final practice to fine tune things for Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

We’ll have the full practice speed chart, as well as What Drivers Said, shortly. Please check back soon.

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