Indiana native Ryan Newman has realized his childhood dream of winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, capitalizing on a slow final stop from Jimmie Johnson and going on to win the Brickyard 400 from the pole position.
Johnson and Newman were first and second, when the five-time Sprint Cup champion made his final stop with 27 laps to go. However, the four-tires-and-fuel stop clocked in at a slow 17 seconds for Johnson. Newman then pitted from the lead one lap later for fuel and right-side tires only, and was able to get out in front of Johnson on the track.
Once the green-flag pit cycle concluded, Newman re-assumed the lead with 12 laps remaining and went on to take the checkered flag by 2.65 seconds over Johnson, who led a race-high 73 laps but was denied what would have been a fifth career triumph at Indy.
“[Crew chief] Matt Borland made an awesome call,” Newman said to ESPN in Victory Circle. “I’ve won more races with him on old tires and [being] out of gas than I have with four tires and the best car…This is a dream come true for me and I can’t wait to go and push my lips against those bricks!”
As for Johnson, he accepted his defeat gracefully.
“It’s definitely a disappointment, but it’s racing – stuff happens,” he said. “I’ve given away a couple [of races] while leading myself this year. We win as a team, we lose as a team, and that’s just how it is. I wouldn’t take another race team out there.”
The victory comes at a very opportune time for Newman, who will leave Stewart-Haas Racing and become a free agent at season’s end. But while he’ll have to look for a new ride for 2014, Newman maintained that his focus remains on finishing strong for SHR.
“We still have a championship to go after and we still have the Chase to do,” he said. “There’s still plenty of racing left. This is a great day for us in the points, but it doesn’t mean anything. Tomorrow’s a new day and come Pocono, this will be in the past.”
Kasey Kahne finished a solid third, while Newman’s boss, Tony Stewart, finished fourth. Matt Kenseth rounded out the Top 5.
After Stewart climbed out of his machine, he eventually made his way to Victory Circle and wrapped Newman in a bear hug as a very proud car owner.
“I was scared to ask where he was at and how big of a lead he had and finally, with three to go, I couldn’t wait any longer,” Stewart said. “Finally, I asked and wanted to know what was going on – I didn’t want to jinx him.
“I just kept watching the Jumbotrons every time we’d come off of [Turn] Four, and was watching to see where he was at. I’m just very proud of him. He’s a great teammate and an even better friend. I couldn’t be happier for him.”