July 17, 2011
Newman holds off Stewart for NH win
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
There was a comment in the Twitter sphere just after the midway point of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Lenox 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that noted if it turned into a fuel-mileage race, the author would slit his wrists.
Well hide the razor, because that is exactly what happened at the Magic Mile on Sunday afternoon.
In what is turning out to be an almost weekly occurrence, the drivers with the fastest cars don’t always win the race.
Race-winner Ryan Newman was running on fumes when he crossed the finish line in the No. 39 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet.
This came on a final lap where — one by one —drivers who were top contenders all day long dropped out of the fight for the win after running low on fuel.
First there was Jamie McMurray in the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet, then Kurt Busch in the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge and teammate Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Dodge with Greg Biffle in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford also falling short.
And before the checkered flag flew Jeff Gordon — who was a threat to win the whole race — slowed to drop from third place to 11th in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
His car had fuel left but it was a flat tire that kept him for a top five finish.
The blame for the fuel drama at the end of Sprint Cup races can be traced all the way back to a decision five season ago to fit cars with a smaller gas tank.
The thinking by the tall foreheads at NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach was that by giving teams less fuel it would stop the long — and some thought boring — single file green flag racing that had become prominent in the Cup division.
What it has done is create more pit stops, thus more lead changes — both NASCAR objectives.
But it also created the dreaded fuel conservation mode that race teams are forced into late in Cup events.
Now that last time I checked, the object of motor racing was to go faster than the next guy.
The winner should not be the car who gets the best fuel mileage.
If that was NASCAR’s intent then bring in the four-cylinder sub-compacts.
I doubt, however, if the 80,000 folks who forked over big bucks at New Hampshire would do the same to see the little four bangers crawl around the one-mile oval.
Kurt Busch put it best when he said that trying to save fuel cost him a win.
“We were on the defensive side hanging on to our track position today, we weren’t on the offence” he said. “We ended up running out of gas on the last lap.”
Meanwhile, it was the 15th career victory for Newman. That ties him with Donnie Allison for 44th on the all-time Sprint Cup list.
Michael Waltrip Racing has hit back against the Williams Formula One team after losing race engineer Mike Couglan to the English outfit. Waltrip has launched a lawsuit in North Carolina seeking unspecified damages, claiming Williams talked Couglan into breaking his deal with the NASCAR Sprint Cup team. Couglan came to NASCAR after being fired from F-1 for his role in the Ferrari/McLaren industrial spying scandal ... The bosses at the FIA have let it be known that they may allow in-season testing again in 2012 for Formula One. Teams, other than the big four — Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes — are opposed to any such move that would increase already our if this world costs in the series ... J.J. Yeley has signed on to drive the No. 55 Sprint Cup Front Row Motorsports Chevrolet at Indianapolis in the Brickyard 400 for the remainder of the season.
RANGER'S RUN DERAILED
The Go Canada Racing team was on pace for a top 15 finish — its best of the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide season — at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the New England 200 when Andrew Ranger got caught up in a crash involving with Steve Wallace in the No. 66 Rusty Wallace Racing Toyota with just four laps remaining.
It was the fourth incident of the day for Wallace.
“I didn’t mean to get into a lot of people today,” Wallace said. “We got spun out running fourth at the end. It was an unfortunate deal.”
Unfortunate for the Canuck, who was making his first start in the No. 67 Ford Mustang in place of J.R. Fitzpatrick. Ranger wound up 28th.
By his standards, Jimmie Johnson isn’t having a championship season.
But the five-time Sprint Cup king showed on Sunday at the Lennox 301 in New Hampshire that he and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team can never be counted out.
Johnson was running in the top three past the halfway point of the race when a missed lug nut on a pit stop caused a penalty that put him a lap down. After getting that lap back, Johnson spun on Lap 241. The team and Johnson fought back, however, and when the dust settled there was the No. 48 in fifth place.
That leaves Johnson in second place just seven points behind Carl Edwards, who reclaimed the top spot with 652 points after a 13th place finish.
BUSCH NOT SO LUCKY
Kyle Busch saw his tenure atop the Sprint Cup leader board cut short on Sunday when he blew a tire after a tussle with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, dropping the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver to fifth place with 632 points.