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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.




Related Pictures

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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)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, pose for a photo prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane with team owner Dale Earnhardt jr. after winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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