BY DEAN HOCKNEY
INDIANAPOLIS – In racing, what happens in qualifying does not always translate to what happens in the race. But at the famed oval of bricks, pole-sitter Ryan Newman led early and late to capture his first Brickyard 400. Newman shared the front row with four-time winner Jimmie Johnson, who finished right where he started the race – second. It was a rare 1-2 finish for the front row starters.
“Just stay green, that was the biggest thing,” said Newman, referring to his thoughts during the final laps. “It’s a dream come true. I knew we had a good car. Starting on the pole and winning the race; just an awesome week for us. I can’t wait to push my lips on those bricks.”
Newman and Johnson’s Chevrolet’s dominated the field of 43, leading 118 of the 160 laps (Newman led 45, Johnson 73). With the win, Newman is the third driver to capture the Brickyard from the pole, joining Johnson (2008) and Kevin Harvick (2003). The win was his first of the season and 17th in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.
“We still have a championship to go after,” said Newman, who beat Johnson to the Yard of Bricks by 2.6 seconds. “We still got the Chase to chase.”
Tony Stewart, car owner of Newman’s ride, took home a fourth place finish giving Stewart-Hass Racing a huge day. Newman and Stewart (2005 and 2007) are the only Hoosier natives to win the Brickyard 400. Stewart is from Columbus.
“I am really happy for him. I can’t wait to give him a hug and congratulate him,” said Stewart. “This has been a great week for us. And for Ryan, this is just a huge win. For us (as Hoosiers), this is where we want to win. It was just him and the 48; that was clear to see. I just kept watching the Jumbotrons coming off (turn) four to see where he was at.”
Johnson, who leads the Sprint Cup Series by 75 points over 20th place finisher Clint Bowyer, admittedly was not pleased with his runners-up finish.
“There’s definitely disappointment there,” said the five-time NASCAR champion. “But that’s racing – it happens. I‘ve given away a few out there this year, too. Ryan was fast all day long. I can’t take anything away from him. He was plenty fast.”
Kasey Kahne finished third and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took home a sixth place finish, followed by Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kyle Busch.
“We kept falling back too far,” said Kahne. “It takes a while to get back to the front. Congrats to Ryan, he had a big weekend.”
Newman’s previous best finish in Indianapolis was a fourth place in 2002 and he had just two Top 10 finishes in 13 Brickyard starts.
“We needed that,” said Newman. Indeed he did.
For more on the Brickyard 400, see the July 30 edition of the Sports Journal.