By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Ryan Newman has had the reputable trait of being the hardest competitor to battle in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway was no different as that aggression led to his first top-10 with Roush Fenway Racing after scoring a ninth-place result.
“It was a good run for us,” said Newman. “We had a car better than what we finished.”
“The Rocket Man” showed strong and consistent pace all afternoon, running inside the top-five for a majority of the race that led to a third-place finish in Stage 2.
As far as battles were concerned, Newman had to deal with Chris Buescher at one point, but it’s his main battle with less than 100 laps to go with both Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott that played a key role on the outcome of the race.
Newman was defending his fifth-place spot, but Blaney wasn’t wasting anymore time and tapped him in Turn 3 with Blaney taking the important track position. Coming down the backstretch with 77 to go, Newman paid him back with a bump to take back fifth.
The battle ended after second-place runner Clint Bowyer cut a tire in Turn 1 after making contact with Joey Logano, sending him to the wall. Meanwhile, Elliott plowed into Newman’s left rear fender, damaging both cars and it led Elliott to go high, losing momentum.
Elliott said the contact put a damper on his afternoon that was already plagued with power steering issues, and finished 11th.
“Definitely not what we started out hoping for. We got turned late in the race, that was about it,” said Elliott. “We fell behind from there. Had a great car, even without the power steering.”
For Blaney, he tried clearing Newman but understood the payback he got after running aggressive for several laps. After the race, the two had a laugh about it, resulting their stances being neutral and understanding it was hard racing.
“I put him in the fence off of two on accident. I tried to clear him myself,” said Blaney. “Just racing hard on a restart and my spotter said he was still out there, but I stayed on the gas trying to clear him myself. I fenced him and I felt bad about that. He got me back.
“He fenced me off the frontstretch, so that’s hard racing. Me and Ryan have always raced each other really good. I’ve looked up to him for a long time and it’s nice you can have a laugh about it and joke about it and not be pissed about it, so it was my fault. I just tried to clear myself.”
As a result of Bowyer’s incident, the caution came out and with Newman having damage, he pitted to make repairs as he reported of having tire rub, giving up valuable track position.
Adding insult to injury was NASCAR officials telling the No. 6 Wyndham Rewards Ford Mustang crew to head back into the pits to serve a penalty for improper fueling. The punishment put Newman at the tail end of the lead, but made a tremendous recovery.
With less than 20 laps to go, Newman was up to fifth after staying out after the 11th and final caution came out for Kyle Larson who made slight wall contact in Turn 3.
Once the race restarted, Newman wasn’t able to hold off his position and would have to wait another race to score his first top-five since the fall Talladega race in 2017. Instead, he was able to score his first top-10 since last November at Martinsville.
Newman said he was confused on multiple outcomes. The first being the improper fueling penalty and the confusion of restarting fifth instead of sixth. Despite these concerns, he felt that his ninth-place finish doesn’t really show his true performance.
“I’m not sure what the call was on pit road there with the penalty, but then I don’t know why we ended up having to start fifth when we were actually sixth,” Newman explained. “It was a penalty to be moved up a spot, but a good run for our Wyndham Rewards Ford. The guys did a good job today, we just don’t have the total result to show for it, but it’s definitely and improvement and I’m proud of them.”
A maiden top-10 result with his new team propelled Newman from 19th to 15th in points. The four spot jump puts him in the top-16 for the first time this season, and ahead of 17th place Erik Jones by two points as the Cup Series heads to Richmond Raceway for the running of the ToyotaCare 400 April 13.