July 18, 2011 in Sports

Newman wins, Stewart 2nd at New Hampshire

Dan Gelston Associated Press
 

LOUDON, N.H. – Ryan Newman had his boss on his back and felt pressure to deliver a top performance.

Might make an office drone squirm in a cubical.

Not on the track, where there was no other driver Newman would rather see behind him than Tony Stewart.

The owner-employee dynamic was simply teammate-teammate for 301 laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Newman held off Stewart, his boss and teammate, to win his first race of the season Sunday and make it a 1-2 start and finish for Stewart-Haas Racing.

“This is huge for our team, even bigger for our organization,” Newman said.

Newman and Stewart made it the first front-row start for SHR in qualifying Friday and they followed up with first- and second-place finishes for the first time on race day. It was a banner weekend for SHR, and Newman and Stewart have jostled themselves in position to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Even the usually gruff Stewart, his dark humor still on display, enjoyed this celebration.

“This was a perfect weekend,” he said.

Newman won for the first time since April 2010 in Phoenix and Stewart earned only his second top-five of the season. It was a pair of near-flawless runs for the drivers as they gear up for a championship run.

Stewart joked that he asked for just one day where something didn’t go wrong with the race teams. They got it on a day when only four of the top-10 drivers in the points standings had a top-10 finish.

“It’s no secret we’ve been struggling this year,” Stewart said. “But it really shows me the depth of the people we got in our organization. It’s been one of the weirdest years as far as weird things and bad luck happening to both of us.”

Newman became the 13th different winner in Sprint Cup this year, matching the total from last season after only 19 of 36 races.

Only seven races remain until the Chase field is set. The top-10 drivers automatically earn a spot. Two spots in the Chase will go to the winningest drivers ranked between 11 and 20.

Stewart is in 11th place. Newman is in eighth.

Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five.

Hamlin nipped at Newman late and made a serious push until fuel concerns forced him to ease off.

“As bad as I wanted to go up there and race those guys, I had to make the smart move and finish the race,” he said.

Johnson and Jeff Gordon, who finished 11th, both rallied from major setbacks for strong finishes. Kyle Busch, who started the race as the points leader, had tire issues, was forced to the garage and finished 36th.

Carl Edwards finished 13th and retook the points lead.

Newman led 119 of the 301 laps, won his 15th career Cup race and third at New Hampshire.

Newman’s major concern was stretching his fuel tank over the long, sweeping corners to the end. Crew chief Tony Gibson warned him several times he was running low and to conserve gas.

“I didn’t think he was going to make it,” Gibson said.

Stewart shared those concerns.

“I don’t mind running second and having him win the race, versus us winning the race and him running out of fuel,” Stewart said. “This is a much more gratifying weekend for me.”

© Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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