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July 29, 2013

Hoosier Newman kisses Indy bricks

INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Newman stole Jimmie Johnson’s thunder Saturday when he pushed Johnson off the pole for the 20th running of the Brickyard 400. He did it again on Sunday, winning the Samuel Deeds 400 at the Brickyard over Johnson by over a 2-second margin.

“Just stay green,” Newman said to himself in the closing laps. “To start from the pole and to win the race, this is just an awesome day for us.”

Newman thanked his crew Matt Borland for his strategy calls during the race. “I’ve won more races with him on old tires and out of gas than new tires and the best car. This is a dream come true for me,” the driver noted.

Growing up in South Bend gives the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a special place in Newman’s heart.

“I don’t realize it yet. It’s a dream come true. It will take a week or so for this to set in. We’ve struggled on and off this year, but we were on today,” he said.

Newman said this win will give him confidence to finish out the 2013 season. He is without a ride for 2014. “It’s confidence for me and the team. We still have a championship to go after. We still have The Chase to chase. There is still plenty of racing left.”

Borland initially thought Newman’s car was a top-eight car for the race. “We just kept rebuilding this car, and it was getting better and better. It is huge. The Brickyard is the Brickyard. It is the best race out there. It is just awesome.”

“It was the perfect storm,” Newman said. “I get fired, and we come back and win this race.” He said despite the setback, his team never considered giving up.

Johnson, who ran a nearly flawless race, spent 18 seconds in the pits for his last pit stop. When the cycle of cars was over, Johnson came out in 11th place, seven seconds behind Newman in 10th.

As the leaders made their final stops, Newman was in the lead. Johnson had gained ground, but never came closer than the three seconds. “Catching up and passing are different,” Johnson said.

“We had a great car. Track position is really important. You have to be able to manage it all well. In the end we made a mistake. I had a lot of distance to make up,” said Johnson.

When Johnson saw Newman ahead of him, he said he knew he would have his hands full. “We win as a team, and we lose as a team. We still ended up second. We still have a lot to be proud of.”

Kasey Kahne finished third. “We kept falling back too far. I really struggled behind cars early in the race,” Kahne said.

Newman’s owner, Tony Stewart, finished fourth. “I don’t know how you could ask for a better day,” Stewart said. “We were pretty much a top-five car all day, but just couldn’t get up there with Jimmie and Ryan. It was fun to watch, but nerve-racking as an owner.”

Stewart said that winning as an owner felt just as good as winning as a driver. “Ryan is such a good friend. I didn’t know it would feel this good.”

Stewart bristled at a question about the lack of passing at this race. “Look up the definition of racing in the dictionary, then look up the definition of passing. You want to see passing, go out on [Interstate] 465. This is about racing. Racing is about doing a better job than anybody else. We are racing.”

Matt Kenseth finished fifth. “We had really great pit stops. That’s really what got us our top-five. We never hit it exactly right,” Kenseth said. He noted that while he was not doing much passing, he was getting passed often.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth, while Jeff Gordon finished seventh after giving up a late race lead to a pit stop. Joey Logano ended his day in eighth, while Juan Pablo Montoya was ninth, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 10.

Logano said he was a bit confused. Although the opportunity for track position was there, the car just did not have enough speed. “We had some issues on pit road, and that cost us three or four track positions,” he said.

Newman led the field through a clean start into Turn 1 and maintained that lead until the first round of pit stops; not one lead change occurred on the track, but rather in the pits.

Throughout the race, no car challenged the leaders. Johnson led 73 of the 160 laps, until his mishap in the pits.

Newman is the second Indiana-born driver to win at the Brickyard and the third driver to win from the pole. Kevin Harvick did it in 2003 and Johnson in 2008. Newman’s previous best finish was fourth in 2002.

Heading into Pocono next week, Johnson leads the points by 75 over Clint Bowyer.

 

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