Ryan Newman gave the U.S. Army an “ARMY strong” sendoff from Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) by finishing third in the Ford EcoBoost 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Newman and crew chief Matt Borland, much like our U.S. Army soldiers, used a mental and physical strength like no other and began plotting their fuel strategy with more than 100 laps remaining in the 267-lap race.
Once the U.S. Army team made its final pit stop on lap 213, Newman had enough fuel to go the rest of the way, while other drivers in front of him would have to pit again. In the closing laps, car after car in front of Newman headed to pit road to top off on fuel, while Newman kept moving up from his 12th position, his spot when the pit cycle began.
Only eventual winner Jeff Gordon and runner-up Clint Bowyer were able to stretch their fuel further, but Newman was still able to score his sixth top-five result of 2012 in what would be the final race for the U.S. Army as sponsor of the No. 39 Chevrolet.
“It’s a great way to send U.S. Army off,” Newman said. “Obviously, a win would have been better. I can’t thank the U.S. Army and all the soldiers enough. I was proud to represent them for four years and will always support them and all the military for the rest of my life. They taught me what it takes to be a soldier and possess a mental and physical strength like no other.”
Newman has four top-10 finishes in 11 career starts at Homestead, but this was his first top-five.
“Just a really great team effort today,” Newman said. “We were probably one of the worst cars when it came to the short run and one of the best cars when it came to the long run, and we knew that going into the race. But just really proud of Matt Borland and all the guys. These last four races have been a lot of fun. They did an awesome job tonight in getting the right strategy and track position.”
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for SHR, finished 17th after dealing with an ill-handling racecar.
Gordon won the Ford EcoBoost 400 to score his 87th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his first at Homestead. With the victory, Kentucky Speedway in Sparta is the only venue on the Sprint Cup circuit where Gordon has yet to win.
Bowyer finished 1.028 seconds behind Gordon in the runner-up spot, while Newman, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were three caution periods for 17 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race.
Stewart represented SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and came into the final race of the 10-race Chase in ninth place among the 12 Chase drivers. He ended the season ninth in the standings. It marked the 13th time in his 14-year Sprint Cup career that Stewart has finished among the top-10 in points. He finished the 2012 season with three wins, a pole, 12 top-fives and 16 top-10s.
Newman finished the year 14th in the standings with 1,051 points, the second-highest non-Chase driver. He capped his season with 14 top-10s.
Brad Keselowski won his first Sprint Cup Series title. He best previous points finish was fifth, in 2011. Keselowski needed only 125 starts to win his first championship, the fewest starts since Gordon in 1995 (93). Keselowski finished the 2012 season with five wins, 13 top-fives and 23 top-10s.
The 2013 Sprint Cup season kicks off Feb. 15-24 with the traditional Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The 55th Daytona 500, the first points-paying race of the season, is scheduled for Feb. 24 and will be broadcast live on FOX.