RYAN NEWMAN/No.39 Chevrolet took a surprising NASCAR Sprint Cup victory Saturday night after a late race caution/restart. It was the first victory for his new owner, driver TONY STEWART/No.14 Chevrolet. Newman said it was the most emotional win of the 14 he’s had in 303 Cup starts. It also ended a dry spell which last saw him in Victory Circle at Daytona in 2008. This is the first time the No.39 car has ever won a Cup race. He’s now sixteenth in the standings.
The attendance was set at 70,000 at Phoenix International Raceway for the Subway Fresh Fit 600 race.
KYLE BUSCH/No.18 Toyota led twice for 113 laps and was leading at the caution by a substantial margin, which came with six laps to go. His pit stop didn’t go as quickly as others, and he finished eighth.
Second was JEFF GORDON/No.24 Chevrolet who was giving it his best on the last few laps but just couldn’t get past Newman. Nevertheless, he was pleased with performance – his and the team’s. He led once for three laps, and he finished 0.130 seconds behind Newman. Gordon is also the points leader for car owners.
Points leader JIMMIE JOHNSON/No.48 Chevrolet finished third, and also led 113 laps, during his four times at the front. He has won four times at Phoenix. Johnson has 1073 points, ahead of MATT KENSETH/No.17 Ford, with 1037 points.
MARK MARTIN/No.5 Chevrolet moved up to finish fourth after a two-tire pit stop. Those who took only two instead of four tires fared better – faster off pit road and on the restart. Busch’s crew were visibly upset after their pitstop.
Fifth was JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/No.42 Chevrolet, who led four times for 104 laps.
The top five drivers wore red bow ties, and GM had six of the top ten finishers. Martin was the only driver in the top five who didn’t lead a lap. Those who took two tires instead of four fared better. It was Newman’s decision not to take on four – he didn’t want to be caught out.
The top Rookie was KEVIN CONWAY/No.38 Ford, who started forty-second and finished thirty-third
Pole sitter A.J. ALLMENDINGER/No.43 Ford stayed out during the last caution and was running fifth at the restart. “It was tough day, a tough race track with the way the conditions change out there.” AJ took four tires on the last pitstop. “You aren’t going to hold Jimmie Johnson back on a restart with two tires. He split me and that put us in the middle, and then we got down in the corner where MARCOS AMBROSE/No.47 Toyota hit me and sent me for a ride. We were lucky we didn’t get into a wreck.” Allmendinger, who led the first seventeen laps, finished fifteenth. Ambrose finished eleventh.;
Thirteen drivers swapped the lead 20 times. Nine cautions took 59 of the 378 laps. Although there were five accidents which resulted in a caution, no one was injured.
An hour into the race, the very slick track became like night and day – bright sun or deep shade/shadows in the four turns as the blazing Arizona sun was setting. Then it became darker and it was the night race all wanted to have.
DENNY HAMLIN/No.11 Toyota started the race, and stayed in the car for the entire race, despite his painful left knee after ACL surgery last week. He was peripherally involved in the first caution dustup, but remained behind the wheel after he pitted for damage assessment. Meanwhile standby driver, CASEY MEARS, sat patiently on the Pit Box, waiting for the ride which never materialized. Hamlin finished thirtieth, two laps down.
Twenty-seven drivers of the 37 finishers were on the lead lap.
Saturday’s fly over was four pilots in four F-16’s from nearby Luke Air Force Base. A proper National Anthem was played by solo trumpet player, JESSE McGUIRE, a repeat performer for the NASCAR races.