To pit or not to pit - that was the question facing the US Army/Haas Automation team as more rain headed towards Lowe's Motor Speedway in Monday's delayed 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600.
The subsequent decision not
to pit following a weather-induced caution on lap 222 of the scheduled 400 turned out to be a sound strategy for the #39 team, as racing never resumed at the 1.5-mile oval, giving Ryan Newman a second-place finish in the Memorial Day event, which had been postponed from Sunday due to continued wet weather over Charlotte.
Soon after the final caution, NASCAR red-flagged the race and, nearly three hours later, the event was called for good, giving David Reutimann, who also bypassed the last pit-stop, a maiden Cup Series victory.
At the time of the lap 222 caution, Newman was running in 15th place and discussions with crew chief Tony Gibson included the possibility of pitting if the leaders pitted. However, at the last second, Newman decided to stay out.
"I asked if the rain was going to stay and the answer was that it might," the driver explained, "I said 'we can't chicken out now' and I stayed out. In the end, it was the right thing to do. It's just strategy - sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't. If the race did go back to green, we would have been in the back."
The result, from pole, was Newman's fourth-straight top five finish, a streak he has not matched since this time of the season in 2005. The result was enough to move him from eighth to seventh in the drivers' standings, and confirmed his position as the hottest driver on the Cup circuit in the last four races, the #39 having posted a finishing average of 3.25 in that time. The Coca-Cola 600 result was preceded by finishes of third at Talladega and fourths at both Richmond and Darlington.
"We just need to keep doing what we've been doing and we'll get what we're after - and that's a win," Newman claimed.