Newman Makes All the Right Moves

by Monte Dutton

Ryan Newman, who hadn’t won since the 2008 Daytona 500, put his No. 39 Chevrolet in victory lane for the first time by winning at Phoenix International Raceway.

Newman’s first 13 Sprint Cup victories occurred at Penske Racing. He moved to Stewart Haas Racing in 2009 and made the Chase in his first year as Tony Stewart’s teammate, but the Subway Fresh Fit 600 marked his first victory with the team. by Monte Dutton In 2002, Newman was named Raybestos Rookie of the Year… over Jimmie Johnson, who has won the past four championships. But the Phoenix victory came at the expense of Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon. Gordon spun the wheels on his No. 24 on the final restart, enabling Newman to pull away.

“It was a long time coming for me,” said Newman. “The emotional part, when I first started in the series, it just came easy. I was with a great team, had a great crew chief, great pit stops, all those things just kind of came easy to me, and then, as it got toward 2005, we got to struggling a little bit. I got a win here or there, but it was not dominant like we were back in 2002 and 2003.

“I wanted to get that first victory for our team and for No. 39 and these guys at Stewart Haas Racing who had never been to any victory in any series.”

To add a bit of historical trivia, Newman’s was the first victory in NASCAR history by a car numbered 39.

Late-race strategy led to the win. On the final pit stop, Newman’s crew chief, Tony Gibson, elected to change only two tires on Newman’s Impala, thus gaining track position.

“It’s racing, man. It’s racing all the way up until the checkered flag falls,” said Newman. “You never know what happens. That’s why fans love the sport, and the strategy and the drama and what’s going to happen and how teams play it out.

“Four tires, two tires, no tires. I’m surprised that there wasn’t a guy who went out there with no tires just to see. There was 24 cars in the lead lap, it’s, like, why wouldn’t you? Some guys just don’t take that risk, and I was glad that they didn’t.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at ‘ 2010 King Features Syndicate

Ryan Newman’s tire strategy paid off as he won Subway Fresh Fit 600 in Phoenix. It was his first win in 77 tries and first for Stewart- Haas Racing. (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)