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Loudon success rejuvenates Stewart-Haas

Stewart-Haas blows away recent frustrations with a triumphant team one-two led by Ryan Newman, amid problems for Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Coming into this weekend's Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the word most commonly used by everyone to describe Tony Stewart was "frustrated."

"Yes, he is frustrated," agreed Stewart's team mate Ryan Newman on Friday. "For that matter, I'm ahead of him in points and I'm frustrated, too."

"I am frustrated because I keep having to answer the question," said a frankly surly Stewart in the routine round of pre-race interviews on Friday. "'Are you happy when things aren't going the way you like it to go? Makes you frustrated, doesn't it?' So yes, we're frustrated."

The weekend's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at Loudon was widely described as make-or-break for Stewart-Haas's season and for any hopes either driver might still have of making the Chase. Partly that's because New Hampshire has always been a strong venue for Stewart, who has won on the low-banked one mile "true" oval twice and only missed out in last year's autumn race because of a mis-call on the fuel pit strategy.

As team owner, Stewart recently took action about Stewart-Haas' malaise by shaking up personnel, axing one of the team's senior stalwarts in director of competition Bobby Hutchens at the start of June. But it hadn't seemed to do anything to improve the situation, with Stewart even starting to talk about not wanting to make the cut for the Chase at all if the team wasn't in a position to win races and be genuinely competitive in the Cup championship play-offs.

"Ultimately, we want to be first or second in either order, so yeah, I'm sure he's frustrated," Newman said. "This is crunch time and this has usually been his time, but it hasn't been this year."

Against that background, Stewart-Haas' front row lock-out in qualifying at Loudon on Friday afternoon raised a few eyebrows and came as rather a surprise, as both Newman and Stewart broke the old track record for the circuit in the process. Of course, claiming first and second place on the starting grid is a long way from genuine race success, but it was a leap in performance that got people wondering.

As the Stewart-Haas cars led the field to the green flag in the gorgeous Sunday afternoon sunshine and pleasant 70 degree Fahrenheit summer temperatures, there was still a very long way (301 laps to be precise) between a fleeting qualifying success and lasting race triumph. And history was not on Stewart-Haas' side, as it had been over five years since the last time the top two cars in qualifying had taken the chequered flag in the race in the same order (Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch at Pocono in June 2006, since you're wondering.)

Kurt Busch made an early attempt to break up the Stewart-Haas front row, but Tony Stewart saw him off and then took the lead from Newman to lead from there until the first caution of the race on lap 29 for debris that came out just as Stewart was starting to put straggling backmarkers like Joe Nemechek and Michael McDowell a lap down.

by Andrew Lewin



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While running through the field following a penalty for a missing lugnut, Jimmie Johnson spins to bring out a caution during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Lenox Industrial Tools 301 on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. as Landon Cassill and David Gilliland scoot through. [Picture Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Ryan Newman becomes the first Coors Light Pole Award winner to cross the finish line first in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Lenox Industrial Tools 301 on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. [Picture Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Race winner Ryan Newman and Stewart-Haas Racing owner/teammate Tony Stewart celebrate together the way they started the race, side-by-side, after finishing first and second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Lenox Industrial Tools 301 on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. [Picture Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Running up front for the first half of the race, Brian Vickers spins out after contact with Red Bull Racing teammate Kasey Kahne on Sunday in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. [Picture Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Ryan Newman celebrates his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the season on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. [Picture Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Ryan Newman is congratulated in Victory Lane by owner and teammate Tony Stewart after the duo finished first and second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Lenox Industrial Tools 301 on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. [Picture Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images]
Ryan Newman celebrates his second win at Stewart-Haas Racing and second victory of the weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday in Loudon, N.H. [Picture Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images]
(L-R) Sybil Scott, Janis Davis, Wendell Scott, Cheryl Ashley and Frank Scott pose with Darrell Wallace, Jr. (3rdL), driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, sits in his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS qualified for 33rd position after hitting the wall Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Harvick, who is in the Chase, is 2nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS qualified for 9th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Newman, who is in the Chase, is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS qualified for 13th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Gordon, who is in the Chase, is 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS won the pole position and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS qualified for 16th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. McMurray, who is not in the Chase, is 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. This was McMurray`s 2nd Pole win this season. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, climbs into his car prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace, Jr., driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, leads Ben Kennedy, driver of the #31 Heater.com Chevrolet, during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, left, talks with crew chief Alan Gustafson in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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