Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart started Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway first and second, and that is how they ran when the checkered flag flew.
Surviving a fuel mileage race, the Stewart-Haas Racing teammates were able to give the team its first victory of the 2011 season and its first one-two finish as an organization.
“It was a perfect day for the organization for sure,” Stewart said. “This is a perfect way to go into an off weekend, for sure. Especially going into Indy, man, this is big for everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing.”
The victory also gave Newman a notch in the win column as he continues his pursuit of a secure Chase spot.
“This is huge for our team, even bigger for our organization,” Newman said. “Let me say it this way. Tony Gibson (crew chief) said before the race, ‘This is our race.’ I wanted to tell him, ‘This is not our race until we make it our race.’ We did make it our race. All the guys came together and made it happen.”
The final laps of Sunday’s race came down yet again to fuel mileage and gas conservation. A number of drivers throughout the top 10 were forced to save fuel, along with Newman and Stewart.
As Newman was saving gas, Stewart began to close the gap but could not get through lapped traffic in time to make a serious charge for the lead.
“The problem was, to do what we did to get a second, I mean, I used everything up getting there,” Stewart said. “That was as far and as close to Ryan as I could get. The good thing is we still got guys in the series like Andy (Lally, one of the lapped cars) that don't see what's going on other than what he's doing. It's amazing, the guy has no concept of the race except what's around him. We just couldn't get the rest of the way.”
Denny Hamlin was also forced to back off in order to save fuel, finishing the day in third. Playing it safe, Hamlin weighed the risk of racing for the win and getting a solid finish and protecting his spot in the standings.
“Obviously, I was running the 39 (Newman) down,” Hamlin said. “The crew chief is screaming that we got to back off. At that point you have to think about the risk versus reward. If we go out there and try to win the race, we get about 10 more points than what we get if we coast and get a third place finish, or if we go for it and miss, run out of fuel, we end up with minus 20, 30 points.
“It's just risk versus reward racing with these fuel mileage things,” he said. “As bad as I wanted to go up there and race those guys, I had to make the smart move and finish the race.”
Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Martin Truex Jr., Marcos Ambrose and Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10.
Next weekend the Sprint Cup Series is off, before heading to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the annual Brickyard 400 in two weeks. The Race to the Chase is starting to heat up, as teams fight for those final 10 positions, along with the two wild card spots.