Like everyone else in the field, Chase contenders Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth were looking to make as much hay as they could when the AAA Texas 500 restarted with 17 laps to go.
But shortly after the green flag flew, Newman and Kenseth made contact in the middle of the tri-oval as Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch jockeyed with them to their inside and outside (pictured right).
Somehow, the four-wide situation didn’t end in a crash. But the contact between Newman and Kenseth left the former with a tire rub, while the latter ceded valuable track position.
While Newman recovered to finish 15th following two more cautions and two green-white-checkered attempts, Kenseth ultimately faded to 25th place.
Newman now sits third on the Chase Grid with an 11-point cushion, while Kenseth has fallen out of the top four advance positions for the Sprint Cup Championship Race; he and Carl Edwards are now one point behind fourth-place Jeff Gordon.
“We did not get the finish we deserved, but it is what it is,” said Newman. “We raced in the Top-5 all day until we got hit hard and it caused a tire rub. Timing worked out for us and we were able to rally back.
“I have to thank the pit crew today, they were on their game. It was a solid team effort for us and I look forward to Phoenix. We have a shot at advancing to the final Championship Round and that’s all this Richard Childress Racing team can ask for.”
However, Newman wasn’t entirely thrilled with NASCAR over the amount of debris cautions it threw during the second half of the race. In the first 167 laps, only one yellow flew and that was for debris. But in the final 167 laps, 12 yellows came out and six of them involved debris.
To Newman, the amount of yellows were “totally unnecessary.”
“We need to keep racing,” he said. “And it’s sad to see, but that’s the way they’ve been playing it.”
As for Kenseth, he had recovered from a slow pit stop under a yellow at Lap 252 that knocked him back to 18th and took the 17-to-go restart in 10th prior to his contact with Newman.
Kenseth couldn’t overcome that and he’s now on the bad side of the cutoff. But he says his mindset going into the Eliminator Round finale at Phoenix International Raceway next weekend remained the same.
“Obviously, today was a disaster as far as where we finished and how at the end of the race I couldn’t pass cars that got lapped earlier in the race – by the end of the race,” he said. “So, it was a poor performance on the scoreboard. [But] just the same approach going to Phoenix, just go there and try to do the best job we can.”