Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart Haas Racing (SHR), overcame starting at the back of the field and aerodynamic issues to finish fifth in the Daytona 500 Sunday at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
Newman was credited with starting the race in 34th due to his 21st-place finish in his Budweiser Duel qualifying race Thursday, but he dropped to the tail of the field at the start of the Great American Race because damage sustained from a flat tire in the Duel prompted the team to switch to its backup racecar. Aerodynamic problems, caused by the hood of the Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS caving under the pressure of the air flowing over the racecar, plagued Newman and the No. 39 team all day, but the team’s never-quit attitude afforded Newman the opportunity to contend for the win in the late stages of the 200-lap event.
“We basically just had a body issue today with our Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS,” Newman said. “The nose caved in, the hood caved in a little bit, but the guys did an awesome job to get it fixed. We did a lot of pit stops, and I kind of lost track of what was going on. I had to worry more about my position than watching the race and educating myself.”
While Newman was not a mainstay at the front of the field, he spent much of the afternoon biding his time, logging laps while coming to pit road when the opportunity allowed for the Quicken Loans team to make needed repairs and chassis adjustments. The adjustments helped cure the handling woes of Newman’s racecar, while the aerodynamic adjustments were just what he needed to make a run toward the front in the closing laps.
“Matt Borland (crew chief) and the guys did a good job of fixing the car without losing a lap,” Newman said. “We really didn’t have any damage. We shouldn’t have had any damage. We just had some actual body failures. The cars, as you saw in practice, were buffeting around so much, and we just didn’t have a couple of things reinforced as well as we should have.
“My guys did an awesome job to get my car back and contend in the Duels like we did after we wrecked in practice on Wednesday. Outside of leading some laps over the cycle of pit stops, the best position we were in all day was the last lap. I can’t say we are entirely satisfied with that, but after our day we’ll take that.”
Newman’s fifth-place finished helped Quicken Loans, the nation’s third largest mortgage lender, kick off the company’s “Bring It Home” sweepstakes, which pays five people’s mortgages for a month each time Newman finishes among the top-five in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Consumers enter the sweepstakes by visiting www.qlracing.com and are encouraged to increase their chances of winning a month-long vacation from their mortgage by entering weekly. Participants also can win additional entries by inviting their friends and family to participate.
“This was a great day for Quicken Loans and for all the fans,” Newman said. “Five people will get their mortgages paid for a month since we finished fifth here today. It’s great that we kicked off the ‘Bring it Home’ promotion in style.”
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished eighth after leading three times for five laps around the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Patrick earned the highest finish for a woman in the Great American Race. The previous best finish for a woman in the Daytona 500 was 11th by Janet Guthrie in 1980.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 41st after getting caught in an accident early in the 200-lap race. Stewart, who has 19 overall victories at Daytona, remains winless in 15 Daytona 500 starts.
Jimmie Johnson won the Daytona 500 to score his 61st career Sprint Cup victory and his second in the Daytona 500, with the other in 2006. He became the 10th driver to win multiple Daytona 500s.
Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished .129 of a second behind in the runner-up spot. Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Newman took spots three through five. The rest of the top-10 consisted of Greg Biffle, Regan Smith, Patrick, Michael McDowell and JJ Yeley.
There were six caution periods for 24 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish.
With round one of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is fifth, seven points behind series leader Johnson. Patrick stands seventh, 10 points out of first. Stewart is 37th, 44 points behind Johnson.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished four spots ahead of Stenhouse (12th).
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Subway Fresh Fit 500k Sunday, March 3 at Phoenix International Raceway. The race starts at 3 p.m. EST, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 2:30 p.m.