Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart Haas Racing (SHR), hoped to continue his four-year trend of bettering his finishes at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but an ill-handling racecar and an expired engine relegated him to a 38th-place finish Sunday in the Kobalt Tools 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Newman fought a loose-handling racecar throughout the first half of the 400-mile event. Despite his struggles, Newman managed to stay inside the top-20. Extended green-flag runs resulted in Newman losing track position and placed him one lap down to the race leaders.
Crew chief Matt Borland called for many chassis adjustments during the race, including track bar, wedge and air pressure adjustments and removing spring rubbers. As the laps clicked off, the handling characteristics went to the tight side. When the caution flag waved on lap 225, Borland and Newman agreed to come to pit road for one final adjustment. On the subsequent restart, the field stacked up, and Newman missed a shift as he attempted to get up to speed. Unfortunately, the damage from the missed shift resulted in engine failure, and Newman was eliminated from competition.
“I missed a shift,” Newman said. “I missed the shift because of the restart, but that’s my responsibility, not those guys in front of me. It was a disappointing day for the Quicken Loans team. It’s entirely on me. I could point fingers at the final restart, but it was still my fault.”
Newman’s teammate, Tony Stewart, led the way for SHR by wheeling his No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS to an 11th-place finish. Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 33rd.
Matt Kenseth won the Kobalt Tools 400 to score his 25th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his third at Las Vegas. Kenseth celebrated his 41st birthday Sunday and became the third driver in Sprint Cup history to win on his birthday. Cale Yarborough accomplished it twice, while Kyle Busch did it once.
Kasey Kahne, who led six times for a race-high 114 laps, finished .594 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Brad Keselowski, Busch and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 25 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race.
With round three of 36 complete, Stewart leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is 18th, 57 points behind series leader Johnson. Patrick is 30th, 76 points out of first, while Newman is 31st, 79 points behind Johnson.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 15 spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 18th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Food City 500 Sunday, March 17 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 12:30 p.m.