Ryan Newman continues dark horse run to Homestead with 3rd-place finish


Another race has gone by in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and Ryan Newman’s chances of being part of the Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway continue to grow.

Newman picked up his second Top-5 of the 2014 Chase today at Martinsville Speedway, following winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon through a wild restart with five laps to go and finishing third.

With one of the three automatic bids to the Championship erased thanks to Earnhardt’s victory, Newman finds himself second behind Gordon on the Chase Grid going to the Eliminator Round’s middle race next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I’m really surprised that we made it to the end without another caution,” Newman said of the frantic run to the finish. “…We were fortunate to make it up from eighth to third there. Had a pretty good restart. Got down to the bottom when I needed to. Those guys were kind of all jumbled up.

“I got into the back of Clint [Bowyer] a little bit there. I apologize to him. But I had the 22 [Joey Logano] pushing me all the way through the corner. I don’t know there was a whole lot I could have done any different.”

Thanks to today’s outcome, at least two of the final four Championship positions will be decided on points. That could prove to be big for Newman, who remains winless but has become a fixture up front (five consecutive Top-10 finishes) at the most important stretch of the season.

“It’s played to our advantage the entire time as far as not having a win, not having bonus points [for a win],” he said. “Even if you’re 8 of 12 or 16, you’re still getting caught up, making free points that they’re giving you to be tied to the next bracket.

“It’s been to our advantage the whole entire time.  But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be from the drop of the green in Texas or from the drop of the green in Homestead. [But] it has played to our advantage mathematically, no doubt.

“We were the 16th seed coming in without a win. We’ve not won yet. We were tied for the lead in the points with four races to go. So mathematically it has played to my advantage – as [it has] others, but probably mine mostly.”

Newman had to work for this one today, though. He had climbed up to ninth when a caution came out at Lap 188.  But both himself and Gordon (who was the race leader) were tagged for speeding in the pits during the subsequent round of yellow-flag stops.

Newman took the Lap 206 restart in 31st, one spot behind Gordon. But by Lap 300, both men had rocketed back into the Top 10.

The next hundred laps saw Newman fall back outside the Top 10 with a tight-handling car but return there when adjustments in the pits paid off.

Following the brief red flag with 11 laps to go for Kyle Larson and Marcos Ambrose’s crash, Newman was called into the pits for fuel and two tires. While Tony Stewart, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and David Ragan stayed out to take over first, second, and third, Newman was fifth off of pit road – slotting in eighth for the final restart.

But the two-tire call proved huge in the end for Newman and the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team.

“The strategy of two tires there at the end worked out good for us,” Newman said. “Right number of laps with the guys that stayed out, kept the guys behind us that had four tires.

“Great team effort. I put our team in a hole when I sped on pit lane, which doesn’t happen very often. It did today. It cost us a lot of track position, same time that the 24 [Gordon] did. We come back to finish second and third together 300 laps later.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.