Richard Petty once said, "The best you can do on any given day is to put yourself in a position to win and let circumstances dictate the outcome." Well, "The King" pretty much nailed how Ryan Newman took the checkered flag at Loudon, NH on a very hot Sunday afternoon.
Prior to Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301, Newman's season was like a day at the beach without the sun and that comfort drink in hand - somewhat nice but leaving you unsatisfied even being surrounded by paradise.
Round 19 wasn't going to end up as another race that got away for the No. 39 Army Chevrolet Impala team, virtually pulling off the perfect weekend by sitting on the pole and winning at "The Magic Mile."
Sunday's victory was the third for Newman in The Granite State and it couldn't have come at a better time for the South Bend, IN native.
"This was the perfect weekend," Newman said per AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston's article.
Newman's win snapped a winless streak that dated back to April of 2010, when he took the win at Phoenix over Jeff Gordon in a late race restart duel. However, Newman's car was truly in a class of its own and certainly "An Army of One."
Finishing second in the 301-miler was teammate and car owner Tony Stewart, whose strong finish was a shot in the arm for his No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy team led by crew chief Darian Grubb.
"It's no secret we've been struggling all year," Stewart said, whose team finished 1-2 for the first time in its three-year history. "But it really shows me the depth of the people we got in our organization.
“I don’t mind running second and having him win the race, versus us winning the race and him running out of fuel. This is a much more gratifying weekend for me.”
Certainly, Sunday's race showed just how strong the Stewart-Haas Racing team, as a whole, can be when clicking on all cylinders, preferably all eight of them.
Rounding out the top-five finishers were Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin and Johnson overcame some mid-race tangles to rebound nicely in the top-five running order whileLogano ran a relatively quiet, almost unnoticeable race to nab his third top-10 finish in the past four races.
Placing sixth through tenth were Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Marcos Ambrose, Martin Truex Jr., and Kurt Busch.
Labonte, Ambrose, and Truex had super finishes, getting some much needed strong results during their somewhat middling seasons. It was Labonte's second top-10 finish of the entire season, while Ambrose and Truex's years and Chase bids have fizzled in the dog days of summer.
Just placing outside the top-10 was Jeff Gordon, whose flat tire cost him a possible top-five finish. Despite his last lap troubles, the four-time Cup champion overcame some obstacles throughout the race.
"It was a pretty crazy day for us," Gordon said. First, he tackled a battery problem, which forced him to come to pit road for a change that cost him a lap.
Regaining that lap via the "Lucky Dog" rule during a lap 172 caution period, the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevy team made tremendous gains, climbing back to the top-five before a flat tire relegated him to an 11th place finish.
As for Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Brian Vickers, it was an afternoon to forget. Busch andKeselowski experienced tire problems, which sent them hard into the fourth turn SAFER barrier whileVickers wrecked by accidental contact from Kasey Kahne.
The Sprint Cup drivers and teams have the upcoming weekend off before they hit up "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" aka Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 18th running of the Brickyard 400. Jamie McMurray hopes to turn his year around by repeating his dramatic feat from 2010 while past winners Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, and Jimmie Johnson look to recapture Indy glory.
ESPN takes over the television coverage for the rest of the season, with Marty Reid, Dale Jarrett, and Andy Petree in the booth while Dr. Jerry Punch, Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Vince Welsh, and Mike Massaro will cover the action in the pits for the remainder of the 2011 campaign.
Here's a look at your top-10 points standings heading into Indy along with the two wild card seeds, with team, manufacturer, and wins listed in the parentheses:
- Carl Edwards (Roush-Fenway/Ford/1 win)
- Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick/Chevy/1 win)
- Kurt Busch (Penske/Dodge/1 win)
- Kevin Harvick (Childress/Chevy/3 wins)
- Kyle Busch (Gibbs/Toyota/2 wins)
- Matt Kenseth (Roush-Fenway/Ford/2 wins)
- Jeff Gordon (Hendrick/Chevy/2 wins)
- Ryan Newman (Stewart-Haas/Chevy/1 win)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick/Chevy)
- Denny Hamlin (Gibbs/Toyota/1 win)
- David Ragan (Roush-Fenway/Ford/1 win)
- Tony Stewart (Stewart-Haas/Chevy)