Saturday, September 16, 2023

CUP: Ryan Newman collected in multi-car Bristol pileup

PHOTO: Steven Taranto, @STaranto92

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Ryan Newman picked up the 14th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway when his #51 Biohaven / Jacob Companies Ford was involved in a multi-car accident after 260 of 500 laps.

The finish, which came in Newman’s 730th start, was his first of the season and first in a Cup Series race since October 10, 2021 at the Charlotte “Roval,” 69 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 31st for the #51, the 658th from a crash, and the 735th for Ford. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 45th for the #51, the 1,020th for Ford, and the 1,354th from a crash.

An overshadowed storyline in the 2023 season has been the return of Newman, whose last Cup start came in the 2021 Phoenix finale. This was just before both NASCAR’s introduction of the NextGen car and Brad Keselowski’s investment in Roush-Fenway Racing. Newman returned at Darlington this spring, where he ran a “throwback” to the Penske Racing entry with which he won his first Cup race at New Hampshire in 2002. He this time drove for Rick Ware Racing, and came home 28th, four laps down. This allowed him to run the All-Star Open at North Wilkesboro, where he finished 12th in the 16-car field. Bristol marked his fifth Cup start of the year, fresh off a season-best 27th in his return to Darlington for the Southern 500. 

While the preliminary entry list showed Cole Custer as the #51’s driver for Saturday, that changed back to Newman by mid-week. With only the 36 Chartered entries arriving for a 40-car starting grid, that would secure Newman his 40th career Cup start at Bristol. He turned the slowest lap in practice, but found speed in qualifying, jumping to 27th on the grid with a lap of 124.484mph (15.414 seconds). Ironically, that was Newman’s worst starting spot at Bristol since 2018.

Surprisingly, the 36th and final starting spot fell to Kyle Larson, whose #5 Valvoline Chevrolet broke loose in the corner and nearly wrecked. Even so, Larson ranked just 0.017 second behind 35th-ranked J.J. Yeley, Newman’s teammate, in the #15 Steakhouse Elite Burgers Ford. After several delays due to rain, Larson moved up a row for the start, taking the green in 33rd, 3.482 seconds back of the lead ahead of Ty Dillon’s #77 Gainbridge Chevrolet (3.466), B.J. McLeod’s #78 Chevrolet (3.754), and Yeley (3.91).

Kyle Larson running 36th during the rainy pace laps.

Yeley remained in last at the start, but on Lap 3 had pulled alongside McLeod by 0.084 second at the stripe. McLeod held off the charge, and soon dropped Harrison Burton to 35th in the #21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Ford. Yeley then dropped Burton to last on Lap 6, opening a gap of 0.219, and McLeod fell to last again on Lap 8. By Lap 12, McLeod was now following Daniel Suarez, whose #99 Aerial Recovery Chevrolet had slipped back from 24th on the grid. “Really bad,” said McLeod on the radio, remarking that his car was “porpoising” around the track. McLeod was first to lose a lap on the 19th circuit, and was losing a second lap when the first caution fell on Lap 70.

The caution came out for debris resulting from a two-car incident off Turn 4. Seconds after he also lost a lap, A.J. Allmendinger bounced off the Turn 4 wall and slowed, his #16 Barger Precast Chevrolet directly in the path of a fast-closing Austin Cindric in the #2 Menards / Monster Ford. Cindric collided with Allmendinger’s left-rear, briefly ramping Cindric’s car off the ground before landing on all four wheels. Both made it to pit road for repairs. Allmendinger took last from McLeod on Lap 71, followed by Cindric on Lap 74. Cindric also incurred a pit road penalty for his stop, so after Allmendinger retook last on Lap 75, Cindric was there on Lap 77. 

The field pulls away from Cindric's damaged Ford.

With the race back under green, Cindric lost touch with the rest of the field. The team planned to make further repairs under the next caution, which came for rain on Lap 105. The rain was light, keeping the field on the track, so Cindric pitted on Lap 109 and stayed there as other cars joined him. A two-tire stop became a four-tire change, and Cindric returned to the race four laps down. Back under way, Cindric pitted under the second rain caution on Lap 130 for a round out of the left-rear and air pressure adjustments, but again was penalized, this time for speeding in Section 4. The rain intensified, and the crew covered his car under the Lap 137 red flag.

“All right now, we are not done fighting tonight,” said Cindric’s crew as the caution came back out. On the Lap 140 restart, Cindric was three laps down, and this time was able to catch the tail end of the field, starting on Lap 149 with 35th-place McLeod, who was two laps ahead. But by Lap 190, Cindric’s spotter was frantically calling faster traffic past the #2, which found itself on the inside of several three-wide battles in a row. By Lap 237, Cindric was six laps down, where he remained when Stage 2 ended on Lap 251. At that point, 35th-place McLeod was still two laps ahead of him, and all the starters were still running.

Logano pulls his damaged #22 behind the wall. Note the image on the big screen at left.

The turning point came on the Lap 261 restart to begin the third and final stage. Just two laps later, contact back in the pack between Erik Jones’ #43 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet and Corey LaJoie’s #8 NEGU Chevrolet sent LaJoie spinning down the backstretch, spoiling a race where the #7 led 48 laps and finished 2nd in Stage 1. LaJoie bounced off the inside wall and slid up the banking, colliding with the left-rear of a passing Joey Logano. Logano’s #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford was then piled into by Justin Haley’s #31 Mountain Dew Chevrolet, Ty Dillon’s #77, and Ryan Newman. Logano pulled into his pit stall, only for the crew to discover the left-rear wheel had been wrenched backward in the impact. Logano drove behind the wall on Lap 266 as Newman’s car was towed in, soon to be joined by Haley and Dillon. 

Newman's car towed into the garage.

Newman, already laps down at the time of the crash, was lowest-classified of the four drivers eliminated in the wreck, and took over last from Cindric on Lap 267. Haley, Logano, and Dillon filled the next spots in the Bottom Five, which was completed by Cindric. Cindric reached the finish under power, 12 laps down at the checkered flag.

Carson Hocevar continues incredible run for Legacy Motor Club

Carson Hocevar’s fourth and latest Cup Series start was his best yet. After qualifying 16th in the #42 Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet, Hocevar charged through the field in Stage 2. He reached 10th on Lap 185, passed William Byron for 7th on Lap 211, then on Lap 244 took over the 5th spot, where he soon finished in Stage 2. After losing a few spots, he remained on the lead lap until just 11 laps to go, when he was running 11th, where he finished as the first car one lap down. This marked the best finish of the year for LMC’s #42, besting the 12th-place run by Noah Gragson in the spring Atlanta race.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #51 in a Cup Series race at Bristol. As for Newman, it was his second – the other occurred on September 18, 2021 – two days short of two years to the date – when his #6 Kohler Generators Ford was eliminated under the “Damaged Vehicle Policy.”

38) #51-Ryan Newman / 260 laps / crash
37) #31-Justin Haley / 261 laps / crash
36) #22-Joey Logano / 262 laps / crash
35) #77-Ty Dillon / 263 laps / crash
34) #2-Austin Cindric / 488 laps / running

1st) Live Fast Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing, Spire Motorsports (4)
2nd) Joe Gibbs Racing, Penske Racing, Richard Childress Racing (3)
3rd) Legacy Motor Club (2)
4th) Front Row Motorsports, Hendrick Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Trackhouse Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (9)
3rd) Toyota (3)


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