|SOURCE: NASCAR Media|
Newman enters his 17th Sprint Cup season and third with Richard Childress Racing. The 2008 Daytona 500 winner comes off his third-straight Chase appearance, but is also looking for his first Cup win in the Caterpillar colors. With the exception of sponsor Quicken Loans moving to Hendrick Motorsports, the team has remained largely the same since last season and has come to Daytona looking to make a statement.
Newman began SpeedWeeks 2016 with a late-race crash in the Sprint Unlimited, leaving him 19th in a field of 25. He ran 18th-fastest in the opening Daytona 500 practice that day, ran 16th in the second session, and timed in 15th in qualifying at a speed of 194.099 mph. He missed the cut for the second round by just under four-hundredths of a second.
On Wednesday, Newman was just 32nd-fastest of 36 entrants for the third practice session, but was preparing to make some race runs in the second session later that evening. In the last half of the session, he followed a single-file line of traffic off pit road and onto the track. Just as the line picked up speed, Ty Dillon’s #95 Cheerios Chevrolet fielded by Leavine Family / Circle Sport Racing cracked a weld in the oil cooler, leaking oil all over Turns 1 and 2. Newman, following Reed Sorenson’s #40 CRC Brakleen Chevrolet several carlengths behind, checked-up with the rest of the field, but slid in the oil. Newman bumped Sorenson and was hit by Michael Waltrip’s #83 Maxwell House Toyota, sending both of them into a spin. When the smoke settled, Newman was in the garage area, the Childress crew working hard to fashion a new right-front fender.
Newman was one of the seven drivers who returned to the track on Thursday morning, running 5th-fastest of the group with the second-most laps turned. Satisfied, the Childress team prepared for Thursday night’s qualifier, where Newman was set to roll off 7th in Race 2.
Starting last in Race 2 was Brian Vickers, whose relief duties for Tony Stewart in the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet began with a hard crash in the Sprint Unlimited and a technical infraction that wiped his qualifying time. He was joined in the rear by Martin Truex, Jr., whose #78 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Toyota was denied a qualifying attempt for an improper roof flap adjustment. Joining them were Kyle Larson and Michael Waltrip, both of them sent to backup cars in Wednesday’s wreck that damaged Newman’s machine.
When the green flag flew, Larson fell to last going into the first corner, but Waltrip was last by the time the leaders came off Turn 4. Vickers took a turn in 22nd on Lap 2 followed on Lap 6 by Landon Cassill, making his first racing laps in Front Row Motorsports’ #38 Florida Lottery Ford. As three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates ran nose-to-tail ahead of a long single-file line, Cassill and the nine cars in front of him fell back into a distant second group, gapped by two seconds. Sorenson’s #40 fell to last on Lap 7 followed again by Cassill on Lap 10. By this point, Cassill, Sorenson, Waltrip, and Michael Annett had fallen back into a third pack even further back and were already in danger of eventually losing a lap.
Then on Lap 30, Newman, still with the lead single-file pack, suddenly slowed on the track. He reported to his crew he had lost a cylinder, and the engine continued to sour as the rest of the field passed by. Coming off Turn 2 on Lap 31, Cassill passed Newman for last, and the #31 pulled into the garage soon after, done for the night. Newman, who races for a chartered team, will start 38th in Sunday’s Daytona 500.
The remainder of the field finished under power, even as five of the leaders wrecked on the final lap. Finishing next-to-last was Sorenson, who lost a lap on track then three more in the closing stages. 20th went to Waltrip followed by Aric Almirola, who stayed out during green-flag stops to lead two laps in Richard Petty’s #43 Smithfield Ford. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Robert Richardson, Jr., whose #26 Stalk It Toyota secured the 40th and final starting spot in the 500 field based on his qualifying time.
*This was Newman’s first last-place finish in the Can-Am Duels.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #31 in a Duel race since 1994, when Ward Burton’s #31 Hardee’s Chevrolet was involved in a first-lap accident in Race 2. Just seconds after the green flag, Dale Jarrett lost an engine, causing the middle of the field to check-up. Buddy Baker clip Jeremy Mayfield’s car and the track closed up in front of Burton, who was one of the five cars eliminated in the wreck.
*This is the Childress team’s first last-place finish in the Duel races since February 17, 1977, when Childress himself, then an owner-driver, lost the transmission on his #3 Kansas Jack Chevrolet after 1 lap of Race 1.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
22) #31-Ryan Newman / 31 laps / engine
21) #40-Reed Sorenson / 56 laps / running
20) #83-Michael Waltrip / 59 laps / running
19) #43-Aric Almirola / 59 laps / running / led 2 laps
18) #26-Robert Richardson, Jr. / 59 laps / running