New­man skips late pit stop, ends long NASCAR win­less streak

The Washington Post - - NCAA TOURNAMENT - BY BOB BAUM

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.

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