2 April 2012
Newman steals win after late caution
"I'm ecstatic for Ryan," said Newman's car owner and team mate, reigning cup champion Tony Stewart. "I got to see it on the replay during the caution after all the havoc broke loose. Ryan made an awesome move to the bottom. He was heads up enough to get in the gas and get through that hole before it closed up. He definitely earned this one, for sure."
Stewart himself didn't have quite the same break of luck, but still ended up seventh as his season continued to go comfortingly well. "Unfortunately, we had our worse run of the day the last run of the day. We got behind there and got a lap down, but clawed back to get the lucky dog and rallied back to seventh."
While the last 20 laps into overtime were all high drama, the preceding 495 had been a relatively routine and fairly uneventful affair.
Polesitter Kasey Kahne's luck had deserted him even at the very start when he failed to lead a single lap; instead, Kevin Harvick had gone in front, and for a moment it looked like the Richard Childress Racing driver might repeat his crushing form from the previous day's Camping World Truck Series race. But that wasn't to be and Harvick's pace soon started to fade, leaving Gordon to take the lead through to the first caution of the day on lap 99.
That was for Kyle Busch spinning and finding the wall in turn 3, which sent him to the garage for a period and well off the lead lap by the time he returned. Earlier, Kyle's brother Kurt Busch had also had a moment with a cut tyre but had managed to keep it off the wall and get onto pit road without triggering a caution, and he would be called up on repeat the same feat a second time later in the afternoon.
Gordon led for most of the next green flag stint up to lap 246 when Dave Blaney spun in turn 2. The next restart lasted barely five laps before Juan Montoya spun, and it was this caution that gave a lapped Ryan Newman a free pass back onto the lead lap. When racing resumed on lap 271 it was Gordon leading Bowyer, Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth and Brad Keselowski up front, while further back Marcos Ambrose, Carl Edwards and David Gilliland survived a scary-looking three-wide moment out of turn 4 without incident.
Kasey Kahne's blown engine came on lap 316 causing a lengthy caution for fluid clean-up around the entrance to pit road. "We had a small engine problem that turned into a big one on the backstretch and just shut off and I had oil on my tyres when I hit pit road," he explained. "I just didn't want to oil the whole surface for all the guys out there so I just shot to the pits and it went spinning and it wasn't a big deal because I didn't hit anything luckily."
Racing resumed on lap 329 with Gordon back in front ahead of his team mates Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. followed by Denny Hamlin and Bowyer. Johnson took the lead of the race on lap 356 just before the fifth caution of the day came out for a spin by Travis Kvapil. Denny Hamlin picked up the lead in the ensuing pit stops, but then Jimmie Johnson reclaimed it on lap 393 and led for the next 100 laps.
In total, the Hendrick team mates led for 443 laps during the afternoon - 328 for Gordon, 112 for Johnson and just 3 for Earnhardt Jr. There was clearly no question which team was the absolute class of the field, and there were no other cautions or lead changes until the Reutimann incident unfolded.
"My frustration and certainly Jeff's is to be the class of the field all day long and be up front and have something stupid like this take us out," sighed Johnson after the race. "We want to get this 200th win for Rick real bad and we could have been 1-2 today easily."
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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