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Local boy Newman claims Brickyard 400 crown

Ryan Newman is no stranger to these parts, growing up close enough to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to have racing in his blood. On Sunday, the local boy came home and made good by winning the Brickyard 400.
Ryan Newman had looked impressive enough on Saturday when he was the last man out in qualifying and duly stole pole position from Jimmie Johnson, who'd set his own benchmark time 90 minutes earlier. It took a new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series track record to do it, but Newman - born not far away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in South Bend, Indiana, 35 and a half years ago - had clinched a dream prize.

All he had to do now was to upscale it to an even bigger one - victory in the Brickyard 400 itself. He put his best foot forward right from the start, taking control of the race over the first stint. He led Jimmie Johnson by an impressive margin over the first 30 laps until the #39 finally came in for the first round of green flag pit stops which gave Johnson the opportunity to steal in front for the next run. So impressive was Johnson's pace in the clear air of the lead that already - even before a quarter race distance - the idea that anyone could stop him from claiming victory this afternoon was already feeling faintly absurd.

It looked as though the next round of stops would be under green and cars started making for pit lane until finally the first caution of the afternoon came out on lap 59 for Timmy Hill's car crawling around the track with a technical issue. That allowed everyone a slightly more leisurely pit stop and tune-up under the four-lap yellow, before the racing resumed on lap 64 with Johnson in the lead.

The halfway point of the race coincided with the second caution of the afternoon - this time the culprit was Jeff Burton with a rear gear issue in the #31 car. This time not everyone followed the plan of pitting, and the top four stayed out: Brad Keselowski took point ahead of Penske team mate Joey Logano and Hendrick duo Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., with the caution proving a Godsend in particular for Earnhardt who had been forced off-sync early in the race by a loose wheel causing him to pit on lap 13.

Behind the stay-out quartet, Carl Edwards had managed to get off pit road ahead narrowly ahead of Jimmie Johnson and the Joe Gibbs Racing pair of Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch - the latter fresh from his Nationwide win at the track 24 hours previously. Inevitably though it was the #48 of Jimmie Johnson that surged into life soon after the restart on lap 86, and the five-time Cup champion was well poised to retake the lead on lap 98 once the Penske pair came in for their deferred visit to pit road.

As the race passed into double digits, Johnson's lead over Newman was over a second, and Newman's team mate and car owner Tony Stewart had joined the pair at the sharp end ahead of Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Kurt and Kyle Busch, with Juan Pablo Montoya enjoying his return to a happy hunting ground from years past in eighth place.

Johnson was forced to pit slightly earlier than planned on lap 108 when he picked up some debris on the front grille and grew concerned about overheating, but there was no crisis and everyone bar Jamie McMurray and Denny Hamlin has completed their latest round of stops by the time the third caution came out on lap 115, the second to be triggered by Timmy Hill's #32 being too slow on track. McMurray and Hamlin duly pitted under the caution, but they were not alone and among those playing a strategy card at this juncture were Gordon, Keselowski, both Busch brothers, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Richard Petty Motorsports team mates Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose.

Johnson and Logano were not among those tempted to come in and they duly led the field to the green flag ahead of Earnhardt, Newman, Stewart and Kahne on lap 119; but once the race got down to under 30 to go, the window was open for the final stop of the day and Johnson was in from the lead on lap 134; but for once the slick #48 crew on pit road stumbled, and the stop was by far the slowest of the afternoon for Johnson.

Ryan Newman immediately capitalised on that opening and after his own stop he held a big seven second advantage over Johnson after taking two tyres only where Johnson had opted for four. Until the rest of the field came onto pit road, both men were bumping along at the bottom of the top ten with several of those who had played the off-sync strategy card ahead of them - Hamlin, Harvick, Menard, Bowyer, Keselowki and Gordon forming the top six. They all had to stop again, and in the meantime fresher tyres were already allowing Newman to make inroads into them - and at the same time also enabling Johnson to tear into the gap between him and the #39 with alarming alacrity.




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Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Quicken Loans/The Smurfs Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samuel Deeds 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 28, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Quicken Loans/The Smurfs Chevrolet, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samuel Deeds 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 28, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Photo by Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson drives the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samuel Deeds 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 28, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Photo by Justin Edmonds/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Quicken Loans/The Smurfs Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samuel Deeds 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 28, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Photo by Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Quicken Loans/The Smurfs Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samuel Deeds 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 28, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished 7th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Earnhardt Jr. is 4th, Gordon is 1st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished 1st, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS finished 37th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick  is 22nd, Kahne is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd.(Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the #17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford tangle during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, lead the field to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Stewart-Haas Racing team co-owner Gene Haas (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Stewart-Haas Racing team co-owner Gene Haas (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil/Hertz Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil/Hertz Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil/Hertz Ford, races to the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil/Hertz Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Damage to the winshield of Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Spring is Calling Chevrolet, is repaired on pit road during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

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