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Newman wins at Martinsville after leaders crash

April 02, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

Ryan Newman's win at Martinsville gives he and Tony Stewart three victories for SHR in six races this season. (Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Gordon, Johnson dominate race but lose lead when Bowyer wrecks duo

In the wake of a controversial late-race caution, Ryan Newman spoiled an afternoon of Hendrick hegemony with an opportunistic victory in the Goody's Fast Relief 500 Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

After Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson dominated the action for 497 laps, an untimely caution flag flew on Lap 498 and sent the race to overtime, after David Reutimann stalled on the frontstretch.

Melee at M'ville


It was a pretty quiet race at Martinsville until caution came out with three laps to go. Then craziness broke out and left numerous drivers wondering just what happened.

Gordon and Johnson stayed out on old tires as the lead-lap cars behind them came to the pits for tires and fuel. On the restart on Lap 504, Clint Bowyer took Johnson and Gordon three-wide into the first corner, and all three cars spun, ruining a potential 200th victory party for Hendrick Motorsports.

After the dust settled, Newman cleared runner-up AJ Allmendinger on the second lap of a green-white-checkered restart and held on to win by .342 seconds. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr.

The victory was Newman's first of the season, his first at Martinsville and the 16th of his career. It was the third win of the year in six events for Stewart-Haas Racing.

"I felt like I wasn't racing AJ on that restart -- I felt like I was racing Junior behind me," said Newman, who overcame a pit road speeding penalty and earned a free pass to the lead lap under the third caution before rallying to win. "It was really important to me to not spin my tires and get a good start and race AJ and try to eliminate the No. 88 [Earnhardt] from the race for the win."

That's exactly what Newman did. On the final two laps, Newman and Allmendinger raced each other hard and cleanly, with Newman taking the green flag from the inside lane and Allmendinger lined up to the outside.

"He ran me really clean," Allmendinger said. "He didn't shove me up the race track like he could have. He gave me the opportunity to beat him on the outside there. We were just not turning good enough in the center [of the corners] there on the restart.

"But we had a shot at it. That's all you can ask for."

The suspense and hard racing of the final two laps was overshadowed by the intensity of criticism in some quarters -- notably the Hendrick domain -- for Reutimann's failure to bring his car to pit road. Reutimann broke a suspension part in the late going but remained on the track. Then his engine failed, and his car came to a stop at the end of the frontstretch.

"I would like an explanation on why that happened, from him, his crew chief, somebody," said Earnhardt, who was running third when the caution flew and likely would have finished there under any circumstances. "But there's no ... it doesn't seem like there could be a logical reason for him to end up stopped on the track.

"He was running around slow; you got a problem, you really ... get down and get on pit road. I don't believe he had any trouble getting down. When we went by him the first time, he was low. I would like to hear a good excuse, to be honest with you, because I'm sure it would be laughable."

Reutimann shares his ride with Danica Patrick, in an arrangement between Tommy Baldwin Racing, which fields cars for Reutimann, and Stewart-Haas, which is supporting a 10-race Cup schedule for Patrick.

"It was really important to me to not spin my tires and get a good start and race AJ and try to eliminate the No. 88 [Earnhardt] from the race for the win."

--RYAN NEWMAN

A motivating factor in Reutimann staying on the track was his desire to keep the car in the top 35 in owners' points -- and thence exempt from qualifying on speed -- until Patrick's next scheduled Cup start May 12 at Darlington.

"I just hate that I was involved in anything that changed the complexion of the race, so I've got to apologize to the guys that it affected," Reutimann said after the race. "It broke a tie rod or something like that. I was just trying to limp around there. We needed to finish the next couple of laps to try to stay in the top 35.

"The thing quit going down the back straightaway, and it shut off. I just didn't stop there intentionally. I know it sucks. I hate it for everybody that it affected, but I mean I can't get out and push the thing. ... I was just trying to finish the day out and trying to stay in top 35, which is why we were trying to limp around out there. They gave me the black flag. We were coming to pit road, and it shut off. And that's far as I could go."

Gordon led 322 laps before Johnson passed him for the top spot on Lap 356. That brought Johnson all the way back from a pit road speeding penalty incurred on Lap 100 under the first caution of the race. Johnson was flagged for speeding on exit and restarted at the tail end of the field.

But with 80 percent of the race ahead of him, the five-time champion had plenty of time to work his way back to the front of the field.

Denny Hamlin beat both Johnson and Gordon off pit road on Lap 363, during pit stops under caution for Travis Kvapil's spin in Turn 2, but Johnson regained the lead on Lap 393, passing Hamlin to the inside through Turns 1 and 2 after dogging the No. 11 Toyota for more than 10 circuits.

Gordon regained the lead on Lap 497 moments before the caution for Reutimann's disabled car slowed the race. The eighth caution for the Bowyer-Gordon-Johnson wreck extended the race to 515 laps, 15 past the scheduled distance.

Notes-n-Nuggets

• Ryan Newman earned his 16th victory in his 374 career race. Newman's last victory was a New Hampshire in July 2011.
• This is Ryan Newman's first victory at Martinsville in his 21st start.
• Ryan Newman becomes the 47th driver to win at Martinsville in 127 races.
• Ryan Newman is the fifth different winner of 2012.
• Stewart-Haas Racing earned its 16th victory, second victory at Martinsville and third victory of 2012.
• Chevrolet earned its third victory of 2012 and 49th victory at Martinsville, tops among manufacturers.
• AJ Allmendinger (second) scored a career-best finish in his 158th start.
• Dale Earnahrdt Jr. (third) has top-10 finishes in the past four Martinsville races.
• Matt Kenseth (fourth) earned his third top-five finish in his 25th Martinsville start.
• Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) has top-10 finishes in four of the past five races of the season.
• Denny Hamlin (sixth) earned his 12th top-10 finish in his 14th Martinsville race.
• Aric Almirola (eighth) scored his third career top-10 finish in his 41st start.
• Jeff Gordon (14th) led the most laps (328). This is only the second time he has led more than 300 laps in a race and failed to win.

All told, Gordon led 328 laps and Johnson 112, but the two best cars weren't near the front of the field when Newman took the checkered flag. Johnson came home 12th, the last driver on the lead lap. Gordon finished 14th, a lap down, after running out of fuel during the overtime.