Ryan Newman picked up the 12th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #6 Kohler Generators Ford was involved in a multi-car accident after 177 of 500 laps.
The finish, which came in Newman’s 718th series start, was his first of the season and first in the series since October 20, 2019 at Kansas, 69 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 1st by DVP, the 34th for the #6, and the 713th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 3rd by DVP, the 67th for the #6, and the 981st for Ford.
Once again, one of the most experienced veterans in the Cup Series field faces a crossroads in his career. It was announced earlier this summer that Brad Keselowski will take over his ride at Roush-Fenway Racing in 2022, and also become part-owner of the team. This news comes just one year after the last lap of the 2020 Daytona 500, where Newman suffered the latest and most serious of a series of wrecks that also raised questions about the safety of superspeedway racing. This year, he’s scored his first top-five finishes since 2019 – a 5th on Bristol’s dirt race and a 3rd in the physical summer Daytona race last month. But these were the only highlights of a season that saw him sit a distant 25th in the point standings.
At Bristol, where Newman held the track record for many years, he drew the 24th spot based on metric qualifying. Kohler Generators returned as sponsor or the first time since Road America. The scheme also ran in this year’s Daytona 500, one of only two DNFs Newman was handed in the year’s first 28 races.
Rolling off 38th in the shortest field for the Bristol Night Race since 1996 was David Starr, who was making his first Cup race at Bristol since 2011. Starr carried his familiar Whataburger colors on Motorsports Business Management’s #66 Toyota – a car that hadn’t been entered in the series since last month’s Playoff cutoff race in Daytona. Unlike both the Truck and XFINITY Series races that weekend, there were no reported concerns with a car smoking during the pace laps, though there was some delay with 20th-place starter Chase Briscoe, who had radio issues on his #14 Rush Truck Centers / Cummins Ford.
When the race started, Starr immediately pulled ahead of 37th-place starter James Davison, whose #15 Greatest Generations Chevrolet fielded by Rick Ware Racing ran a special paint scheme in honor of December’s upcoming 80th anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. By Lap 4, Davison had already dropped a full 1.533 seconds back of Starr, an interval which grew to 3.7 seconds on Lap 12. By Lap 14, Davison pulled to the high side as he became the first driver to be lapped, lost a second on the 21st circuit, and nearly lost a third before the competition caution fell on Lap 40. Soon after, the team discussed they had sparks coming off the left-front of Davison’s splitter.
After the restart, Davison, Starr, and several other drivers found themselves multiple laps behind the leaders, each running the high lane to try and stay out of the way. On Lap 64, Davison was running a full corner ahead of Starr, but Davison remained in last as he was another lap behind the #66. The group was soon joined by Anthony Alfredo in the #38 Dude Wipes Ford and Justin Haley in the #77 Diamond Creek Water Chevrolet, each suddenly two laps down on the 79th go-round. Haley began to climb out of the Bottom Five by Lap 108, passing the RWR duo of Josh Bilicki in the #52 Insurance King Ford and Garrett Smithley in the #53 Boom Mobile Chevrolet, but Alfredo remained back in 36th.
Newman didn’t enter the last-place battle until Lap 169, when entering Turn 1 his #6 crossed the nose of Cole Custer’s #41 Autodesk / HaasTooling.com Ford and slammed the outside wall. Custer’s car ended up tangling with Newman’s slowing Ford, putting Newman into the fence a second time. The ensuing accordion effect caused contact between two of NASCAR’s newest teams as the right-front of Bubba Wallace’s #23 McDonald’s Toyota slammed the left-rear of Daniel Suarez in the #99 Coca-Cola Chevrolet. While Suarez, Wallace, and Custer all returned to the track, Newman had an extended stay on pit road as the crew worked on the right-front suspension. He made it back out to complete around seven more laps before his “Crash Clock” expired on Lap 188. By completing these laps, Newman was listed out under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy” or DVP instead of a crash. He’d just taken last from Davison when time expired.
|The crew works to repair Newman's damaged|
Haley and Alfredo would be eliminated in a similar wreck on Lap 221 when contact from Corey LaJoie’s #7 Schluter Systems Chevrolet sent Alfredo sideways into the Turn 1 wall. Alfredo’s car then bounced back into traffic directly into the path of B.J. McLeod’s #78 Honor and Remember Ford. McLeod’s camouflage-painted machine, decorated in honor of the 13 servicemen lost last month in Afghanistan, was trapped between Alfredo and a fast-closing Haley, destroying both corners of the #78. Alfredo and Haley made it to pit road with significant damage, but McLeod had to climb from his car, done for the night. Haley was done, too – the right-front fender shorn from his Chevrolet – while Alfredo completed nearly 100 more laps before he too dropped out.
Rounding out the Bottom Five was Quin Houff, who brought out two consecutive cautions on Laps 364 and 389. He’d suffered damage to the rear of his #00 Boss Hoss Cycles Chevrolet in the first caution, then struck the outside wall in the second, keeping both front wheels from moving. Like McLeod, Houff climbed from his car, done for the night. Davison ultimately finished 33rd, 26 laps down to race winner Kyle Larson, as only the Bottom Five failed to finish the event.
While the elimination race for the Round of 12 took center stage, two non-Playoff drivers enjoyed strong finishes – each in one of the sport’s two most iconic car numbers. Erik Jones showed speed all night and finished 8th in Richard Petty Motorsports’ #43 U.S. Air Force Tuskegee Airmen Chevrolet. Two spots behind him was Matt DiBenedetto, who ran blue-and-white colors on his #21 Reese / Draw-Tite Ford fielded by the Wood Brothers.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #6 in a Cup Series race at Bristol since July 25, 1965, when “The Silver Fox,” David Pearson, picked up his first-ever Cup Series last-place finish following a crash 8 laps into the Volunteer 500. This race was run 12 years before Newman was even born.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
38) #6-Ryan Newman / 177 laps / dvp
37) #78-B.J. McLeod / 215 laps / crash
36) #77-Justin Haley / 216 laps / crash
35) #38-Anthony Alfredo / 313 laps / crash
34) #00-Quin Houff / 375 laps / crash
2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Rick Ware Racing (5)
2nd) JTG-Daugherty Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (4)
3rd) Chip Ganassi Racing, Spire Motorsports (3)
4th) Front Row Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management, Roush-Fenway Racing (2)
5th) Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, StarCom Racing (1)
2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (10)
3rd) Toyota (3)
2021 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP