Newman skips late pit stop, ends long NASCAR winless streak
avondale, ariz. — A big gamble in the desert heat ended a long victory drought for Ryan Newman.
When just about everybody else decided to take a tire-changing pit stop in the final few laps on Sunday, Newman figured he’d be going in with them.
His crew chief Luke Lambert thought otherwise.
It was a decision that earned Newman a victory in the NASCAR Cup Series race, ending his 127-race winless streak.
“Just a heck of a gutsy call by Luke Lambert,” Newman said. “It’s his first win as a crew chief in the Cup Series and I think making a gutsy call like that makes it that much more special for him.”
While the leaders were in the pits, Newman moved from seventh to first and for the final two laps held off Kyle Larson, the second-place finisher for the third straight race.
“There’s guys that go their whole career and never win, and good drivers,” Newman said. “You’ve just got to stay humble. This sport . . . there’s one guy that wins, 39 losers.”
Kyle Busch, the leader for nearly all of the final stage of the race, was third on a day when the temperature soared to 97 degrees at Phoenix International Raceway.
Like nearly all the rest of the field, Larson and Busch went to the pits on the late caution caused when pole sitter Joey Logano’s car blew a right tire and slammed into the wall six laps from the finish.
Newman won his 18th Cup race but his first since the 2013 Brickyard 400. He gave Chevrolet its first victory of the season and ended a 112-race losing streak for Richard Childress Racing.
“I can’t say enough about what it means,” Newman said.
When the caution ended, two laps separated him from the win.
“You’re on old tires. It’s really easy to screw it up,” Newman said. “You’ve got to get your tires cleaned off right, you’ve got to get a good launch, you’ve got to run through the gear box right, and then you’ve got to hold everybody off.”
Larson, with two new tires on his Chevrolet, came out of the late pit stop ahead of Busch’s Toyota and had the best chance to catch Newman.
“I thought he was going to be all over me,” Newman said. “I don’t think he could get going as good as he wanted to.”
Larson blamed his failure to get that victory three races in a row on “little mistakes or inexperience or whatever you want to call it.”
Once again, Logano’s misfortune foiled Busch, who was leading up until that tire blew.
Last week Logano’s car knocked Busch’s into the wall on the final stretch in Las Vegas. That led Busch to storm down pit row and throw a punch at Logano, creating a scuffle with the crews and a meeting for the drivers with NASCAR officials on Friday.
Busch took the lead with a quick pit stop during a caution flag and led for 113 laps before heading to the pits after Logano’s crash.
The series of runner-up finishes gave Larson the Cup points lead, the first time Chip Ganassi Racing has led the points race this late in the season since 2002.
Logano won the first stage and Chase Elliott the second in NASCAR’s new three-stage system.
Elliott dominated the second stage but lost the lead after Matt Kenseth, like Logano, blew a right front tire and slammed into the wall on the 193rd lap of the 314-lap race. In the ensuing pit stop, Busch got out quicker than Elliott to take the lead.
The Cup’s “NASCAR Goes West” tour heads to Fontana, Calif., next Sunday for the finale of its three-race spring trip to the West.