By Patrick Reynolds
Martinsville, VA- Ryan Newman scored the NASCAR Cup Series win at Martinsville Speedway after a day of Hendrick Motorsports dominance, a peculiar final caution period, and action-filled closing laps.
With Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson running side-by-side for the lead, and many cars having fuel concerns, David Reutimann came to a stop near the entrance to turn one bringing out a late caution and setting up a green-white-checker finish.
Gordon and Johnson stayed out while the rest of the lead lap cars pitted. Clint Bowyer was the first car with fresh tires in third position and drove three-wide on the restart underneath the lead duo who were nursing their worn tires.
The contact resulted in Johnson and Bowyer going around and Gordon going for a slide. Newman maneuvered past for the lead.
Johnson then pitted for tires and fuel under the caution. Gordon tried staying out while holding second, but ran out of fuel as the yellow laps clicked off.
Newman held off A.J. Allmendinger for the two-lap run to the finish.
“Well, the first green-white-checkered, I told the guys on the radio, I said ‘Listen, good job today. I’m not sure if I can bring it back,’ and that’s when the whole deal happened in turn one,” Newman said.
“It was a bad situation for everybody,” said Bowyer as he described the last restart. “We ended up tenth, but should have been easily a fourth place finish. You got tires, they don’t. They spin the tires. The 39 (Newman) hits you in the rear. If I didn’t go down there, the 39 was. We just all run out of real estate. That’s just the nature of the beast.”
After the race Johnson said, “That inside lane is awfully inviting at times. The 15 (Bowyer) threw a dive bomb in there. I’m sure once he got in there, and realized that wasn’t the best idea and he was hoping 12 tires would be a lot better than four. It turned me around. It turned the 24 (Gordon) around.”
Said Gordon, “I was pretty mad at him (Bowyer). He said he got hit from behind from the 39. And I heard that from my team as well. I didn’t get the best restart so when he first showed his nose down there I thought ‘Ok we’ll make it work.’ But he came through there with so much speed there was no way. I had no where to go and it was pretty unfortunate.”
Reutimann’s disabled car was puzzling considering his slowly limped around the speedway several times with ample opportunities to pit, yet did not.
Reutimann said post-race, “It broke a tie rod or something like that. I was just trying to limp around there. We needed to finish the next couple of laps to stay in the top 35. Then the motor had been breaking up the last couple of laps. Broke a timing belt or whatever going down the back straightaway, and the motor just quit.
“I would not have stopped on the freaking racetrack. I would have limped it around there and come to pit road, which is what I was trying to do. The thing quit going down the back straightaway, and it shut off, I just didn’t stop there intentionally,” said Reutimann.
Winner Newman said, “It was just circumstances with the 10 (Reutimann) there, doing what he did. I’m not sure what happened, (if) he ran out of fuel, had a problem, or whatever.”
Bowyer was clearly upset with what set up the final caution. He said, “I don’t know what the 10 car was doing. He drove around there for 10 laps with no brakes. Then finally just stopped. That was ridiculous.”
Third finishing Dale Earnhardt Jr. shared his thoughts about Reutimann and the final yellow. “It doesn’t seem like there could be a logical reason for him to end up stopped on the track.”
“He was really running slow; you got a problem you really- get down on pit road. I don’t believe he had any trouble getting down. When we went by him the first time he was low. I would like to hear a good excuse to be honest with you, because I’m sure it would be laughable,” said Earnhardt Jr.
Hendrick Motorsports showed their dominance throughout the weekend in search of the organization’s 200th series win. Gordon led lap times in both Friday practice sessions. Kasey Kahne won the pole with Johnson and Gordon leading most of the race. Hendrick engines and chassis are also supplied to Stewart-Haas racing for which winner Newman drives.
Polesitter Kahne suffered an engine failure while Earnhardt Jr. was the highest finishing Hendrick team car.
Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex, Jr rounded off the top five. Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, and Bowyer rounded out the top ten. Johnson finished 12th, Gordon 14th, and point leader Greg Biffle wound up 13th.