2 April 2012
Newman steals win after late caution
But regardless of the post-race ramifications the damage was done, and the race was going into green-white-chequered (GWC) conditions. That meant up to three attempts to restart the race, and providing they made it around one lap to the white flag then whatever flag came out after that (green or yellow) would be treated as the chequered flag and freeze the race positions.
Sounds easy, but while the cars were running around waiting for this GWC finish to take place they were burning fuel. And those cars that had been pushing their fuel consumption to the very limit couldn't afford these extra laps without fearing they were about to run dry at any moment: the front row of Gordon and Johnson in particular.
They were already three laps over the scheduled race distance when the green flag came out for the first GWC finish attempt. But it barely got underway before Clint Bowyer did a banzai dive-bombing move down the inside of the track, making it three-wide with Gordon and Johnson on the front row.
That didn't work out particularly well.
Bowyer nudged Gordon who bumped Johnson, who spun, as did Bowyer himself. And in the confusion that followed, the Stewart-Haas Racing #39 of Ryan Newman followed through in Bowyer's wheel tracks and took the lead before the caution flashed on again.
"It was just a bad situation for everybody," said a contrite Bowyer. "If I didn't go down there, the #39 had already hit me in the rear and he was going to [take the line.] We'd just all run out of real estate and that's the nature of the beast at this place."
“He said he got hit from behind by the #39,” said Gordon. “He came through there with so much speed, there was no way ... I got a good jump, but then I spun the tyres. I knew he was right there. I moved down a little bit but when he just shot down there I guess he got hit from behind. At that point I was just a passenger."
That left the race back under yellow and preparing for another GWC attempt - but it was a restart too far for Jeff Gordon. He was out of gas, leaving the front two rows at the restart consisting of Newman, AJ Allmendinger, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. Matt Kenseth would succeed in ousting Truex from fourth place in the final two laps of the racing.
The win was undoubtedly a sheer stroke of good luck for Newman, who earlier had been hit with a pit road speeding penalty and needed a lucky dog free pass to get back on the lead lap, after the long caution-free runs on the short oval during the afternoon had resulted in the majority of the field being lapped at one stage. Even so, he had to be careful at the final restart not to blow the opportunity that had been handed to him on a silver platter.
"It was really important to me to not spin my tires and get a good start and race AJ and try to eliminate the #88 from the race for the win," he said. And he managed exactly that, being scrupulously fair with Penske Racing's new driver Allmendinger in the process.
"He ran me really clean," said Allmendinger, who had been feeling ill at the start of the day but who was pleased to have hung in there after a trip to the in-field care centre. "He didn't shove me up the race track like he could have. He gave me the opportunity to beat him on the outside there. We were just not turning good enough ... But we had a shot at it. That's all you can ask for."
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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