Tag Archives: Ryan Newman

From Junk to Gold, Denny Hamlin Wins the Chase Race at Chicagoland

The first NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup race is in the record books. Denny Hamlin has won the myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway capping off a weekend that didn’t start out the way it was intended.

On Friday, the number eleven FedEx Ground Toyota hit the track for the first practice full of hope but unable to get out of its own way. Dave Rogers, Hamlin’s crew chief, made wholesale changes to the car prior to qualifying. Qualifying was canceled due to rain and his troubles in that one practice were magnified because the field was set by practice speeds. Denny Hamlin would have to start the race today 29th, the last of the Chase drivers.

Rogers said, “We did have a lot of adversity.  You know in the Chase you’re going to have adversity, it’s going to strike.  We’ve been talking about it, been trying to mentally prepare for it.

In Saturday’s practices it was apparent that the team was able to fix whatever was wrong with the No. 11. Hamlin was the second fastest in the first practice and seventh fastest in the final practice. A great improvement but he still had his less than desirable starting position to contend with.

Indeed, his starting position became a problem right from the start. On lap two, the No. 47 AJ Allmendinger car got into the right front of Hamlin’s car, sending him for a spin. He was able to save it and not get hit by any other cars so there was little or no damage. He did go a lap down.

On lap 130 just after a restart on lap 128, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin used strategy to try and get their laps back by staying out and not pitting. This was a risky strategy given the lack of caution flags in the beginning of the race and record pace the leaders had been setting. That strategy paid off on lap 137 when Kevin Harvick hit the wall hard after cutting down a tire; this put both of them on the same pit strategy and tires with the other lead lap cars.

There was a caution flag with ten laps to go and Hamlin’s team had confusion whether to pit or not. He ended up staying out, what at the time looked like a disastrous move. Denny Hamlin restarted third and drove it like he stole it taking Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon three wide. It stuck and he held them off for the three laps even though he had older tires.

It was ballsy, but I’d been stuck so many times three-wide in the middle. The front cars almost have a disadvantage to the back cars the way it all plays out.”  Hamlin added “We got a great restart and I just held it wide open through (turns) one and two and it stuck. We were able to get in that clean air and take off.

Denny Hamlin has tied Chicago Area Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen for 27th on the all-time wins list with 26 wins.

Carl Edwards finished second followed by Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth.

Denny Hamlin has now punched his ticket straight to the next round of the Chase, The Contender Round. The team can now use the next two races to continue to get better for the next two rounds.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312813 Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images

The Chase for the Sprint Cup begins at Chicagoland Speedway

The regular season for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is over. 26 races with 11 individual winners, eight who won multiple times, the Chase Contenders have been decided. The first of the three elimination rounds in the NASCAR playoff format begins at Chicagoland Speedway.

There are 16 contenders for the Championship. Their standings in the points have been reset based on the number of races they have won during the regular season. Those drivers with no wins start with 2000 points. Those drivers with wins get an additional 3 points for each win.

1 Jimmie Johnson 2012
2 Kyle Busch 2012
3 Matt Kenseth 2012
4 Joey Logano 2009
5 Kevin Harvick 2006
6 Dale Earnhardt Jr 2006
7 Kurt Busch 2006
8 Carl Edwards 2006
9 Brad Keselowski 2003
10 Martin Truex Jr 2003
11 Denny Hamlin 2003
12 Jamie McMurray 2000
13 Jeff Gordon 2000
14 Ryan Newman 2000
15 Paul Menard 2000
16 Clint Bowyer 2000

The Challenger Round begins at Chicagoland Speedway then moves on to New Hampshire Motor Speedway the next week and then Dover International Speedway the week after. The four Chase contenders who are lowest in points after Dover will be eliminated from the Chase.

The “Rub” as they say is that any of these drivers who win a race regardless of their point standings gets a pass on this round. If that driver happens to be one of those lower in points then it is possible to be 12th in points and still miss the next round. It is highly unlikely but can happen that the three races could be won by a driver at the bottom of the standings so 10th place may not be safe either.

Looking at the reset points Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer really are starting in a hole even though it is only three points. Three points equals three positions on the race track. There are no bonus points for leading laps, only for winning races. It makes these races much easier to follow.

The new Chase Format puts an emphasis on winning but in reality due to the elimination feature teams must be on top of their game each and every week. Brad Keselowski put this feeling into perspective.

We are ready to go. We have some momentum with the top-10’s lately but we need to turn some of those into wins and we know that. We have 10 weeks though to make that happen. We want to be in the Chase and we want to not take that for granted but on the other side we aren’t just happy with just being in it. We want to do more than just that. That is what we are here to do, to make some noise and hopefully bring home a second championship.

Keselowski knows how it works as much as anyone. He opened the Chase at Chicagoland last year with a three wide pass to win and guarantee himself into the Contender Round. He followed that up with a win in the last race of that round at Talladega to move himself into the Eliminator Round. He wasn’t able to back that effort up in that round and was seven points shy and eliminated from the Championship.

Click on this link to read more on Strategies to Win the Championship.

None of these drivers are going to win the Championship at Chicagoland Speedway but they can dig themselves into a hole. A big hole, one of which the only way to crawl out of is by winning one of the next two races.

Let the Challenger Round begin. It is going to be a great one.

If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway for the myAFibRisk.com 400 it will be broadcast on NBCSN on Sunday September 20th starting at 3 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312197 Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

NASCAR Race to the Chase Final Report Card

The 2015 NASCAR Race to the Chase for the Sprint Cup is now in the record books. This is the second Race to the Chase for this format. Did the teams learn anything from last year? Did the results of the completion under this format change? This article will build upon what was found last year.

This year we had 11 different winners, eight of which won multiple times compared to 13 winners and seven multiple last year. Just like last year that statistic doesn’t lend itself to indicating a larger “Win and You’re in” mentality. In reality the only driver to “Win and in” was Kyle Busch who missed 11 regular season races due to injury and boy did he win. Busch won four races and will be seeded tied for first in the standings after the reset when the Chase starts. Other than Busch all the other winners ended the regular season in the top 11 in points and would have made the Chase under the previous format.

Year Winners Multiple Winners
2015 11 8
2014 13 7
2013 13 6
2012 14 7
2011 15 5
2010 11 6
2009 13 7
2008 10 4
2007 14 5
2006 11 7
2005 12 6
2004 12 7
Average 12.42 6.25

In the end not much has changed. Jamie McMurray was the only one who would have made the Chase under the previous format on points alone. Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard made the Chase via points but only in the four expanded positions.

Each and every driver who made the Chase worked hard the entire season. Other than Kyle Busch the first 15 drivers in points made the Chase. The one and only benefit of this new format is injured drivers are no longer stuffed into cars in order to get the points and make the Chase. That is the best thing ever to happen in NASCAR.

The Chase for the Sprint Cup begins at Chicagoland Speedway, Sunday September 20th for the myAFibRisk.com 400. If you cannot get to Chicagoland it will be broadcast on NBCSN starting at 3 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312201 Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images

 

NASCAR Tiregate – So What?

Unless you are a NASCAR fan who has been living under a rock, NASCAR has been on a witch hunt to find out who may have been messing with the tires in order to get an advantage over the competition. This week NASCAR fined and penalized the Ryan Newman, No. 31 Caterpillar team of Richard Childress Racing (RCR).

Evidently there has been talk about some teams manipulating tires for some time in the garage. It hit the media early this season then NASCAR started taking random tires from teams after the Phoenix International Raceway race. Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick‘s tires were looked at and no indication of tampering was found. NASCAR also took tires from Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman after the race at Auto Club Speedway in California.

NASCAR must have seen something suspicious about the tires from California and sent it to an outside consultant for further review. This process took more than a week and Tuesday NASCAR dropped the hammer and issued a P5 penalty to the No. 31 team. A P5 penalty consists of a $125,000.00 fine to Luke Lambert the Crew Chief plus a six “Point Paying” race suspension from competitions including any nonpoint races in-between (All-Star Race) for Lambert, James Bender, team tire technician and Philip Surgen, team engineer.

Potentially more important is Ryan Newman and car owner Richard Childress have been penalized 75 points. This drops the No. 31 team from sixth in points to 26th in points. We can presume that the other RCR car of Paul Menard did not have any tire irregularities.

At no point in time has NASCAR or RCR indicated what was done to the tires. The commonly held rumor is that small pin holes were made in the tire to “Bleed” off air when the tire was hot in the middle of tire run to keep the tire more near the optimal range. This would in effect make the tire good through the whole tire run not just in the middle or at the end of a tire run.

In the eyes of NASCAR and many others this is cheating pure and simple. In addition it is manipulating one of the big three of NASCAR, the tires, fuel or engine: hence the P5 penalty.

Well in my mind there is cheating and there is cheating. Having an engine with more displacement, that’s a no brainer, cheating. I could do that. Having better fuel, that’s the same. Manipulating the tire via engineering something new, well that is pretty cool.

If they were able to figure out what size hole and/or how many of the same and get them to release air to maintain the near optimal pressure in a full tire run they deserve a medal. They deserve an A for effort!  Unfortunately for them I’m not NASCAR and they still deserve a P5 penalty.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 307294 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

Strategies to Win the NASCAR Sprint Cup

Last year NASCAR changed the rules on how to win the Championship the Sprint Cup. The goal of those changes was to make the Chase races more exciting. To put a do or die component in like other sports have where your championship efforts are over when you lose a game.  In the 2011 season where Tony Stewart won five races in the Chase and beat Carl Edwards to win the last race of the Chase and the Championship. This was the closest championship in history. To have a Championship get settled on the last lap of the last race of the season, that is what the new Chase is all about.

The Chase consists of three rounds of three races each after which four drivers would be eliminated. The catch was that any driver who wins a race in a round automatically moves forward to the next round. The final four drivers would compete for all the marbles in the last race of the season at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Winning a race, this is where some of the drivers and fans got caught. It seems simple. Win and move on. The problem that was overlooked by some was that the risk for racing for that win is greater than the reward, especially in the early rounds.

Points Racing: In reality one can points race. That is race in such a way as to out point the opponents. Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin did not win races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup but managed to make it to the final round at Homestead Miami Speedway. They finished 2nd and 3rd in the championship standings by out pointing their opponents throughout the Chase.

Racing for the Win: Jeff Gordon was racing for the win at Texas Motor Speedway and Brad Keselowski wanted it more. Gordon didn’t back down and wrecked his car. He ended up 29th in the race giving the competition at least 10 points but more importantly moving himself into about a four way tie for the fourth and final spot for the final race.

When the race ended at Phoenix, Jeff Gordon was tied with eventual Champion Kevin Harvick and one point behind Ryan Newman. Harvick made the last and final round by winning the race at Phoenix. Ryan Newman made the last final round as the last driver in on points.  If Gordon would have let Keselowski pass he would have made the last round of the Chase. He would have had a chance for his fifth championship.

Wrap Up: Although winning is always good, at the end of each round in the Chase it appeared that winning was something better left to desperation. Even in the last round of the Chase, the Eliminator Round, there were three spots available to make it to the final on points. Watch for teams to pay more attention to points and who they are actually racing against to move on to each and every round. The racing back in the field is more important than it has ever been.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images