By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Late-race gambles are never a guarantee, and for Ryan Newman, a late-race strategy left him 11th when the checkered flag waved in the Ticket Guardian 500. Newman and his crew chief Luke Lambert elected to stay on track, waiting for a caution that never came.
For over 30 laps, Newman stayed on the racetrack while many of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitors hit pit road at ISM Raceway. He assumed the lead when Brad Keselowski hit pit road, leading for a total of 23 circuits. Despite slowing his pace, and over an 11-second lead, Newman was forced to take his No. 31 Grainger Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to pit road.
Newman had been hovering just outside the top-10 the entire race. The strategy that Lambert utilized gave him a chance to repeat his 2017 success in this same race. That day, Newman won the race after staying out during a late-race caution. This year, that caution just never materialized.
“Our Grainger Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 had the speed today,” Newman said optimistically. “The one thing we struggled to do last season was to lead laps and now we’ve led in two races so far. It’s great to see the RCR Chevys up front. Our biggest challenge was maintaining track position and it is pretty evident what we need to work on and I’m sure we’ll get it resolved. I’m just proud to have contended because the more laps we lead will soon convert into wins.”
The 11th-place finish moved Newman up to 13th in the Championship Points standings. He sits 67-points behind points leader, and race-winner, Kevin Harvick. The 23 laps in which Newman was out front were the most for him since the Spring race at Richmond Raceway last season.
Now Newman, Lambert, and the entire No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team will look to continue to build on their improvements as NASCAR’s Premier Series heads to Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 18.