CHEVROLET SS DRIVERS COLLECT EIGHT OF TOP 12 FINISHING POSITIONS AT KENTUCKY
Ryan Newman Leads the Charge for Team Chevy Finishing Third
SPARTA, KY. – June 28, 2014 – Chevrolet’s Ryan Newman continued to build on a solid and consistent season at Kentucky Speedway by finally breaking through in the Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race to earn his first top-five finish of the season to come home third. The driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS led a contingent of Chevrolet power in the top-10, six teams strong. Newman’s third-place run marks his best career finish at the 1.5-mile Sparta, Kentucky track, and his third top-10. The strong run kept Newman in eighth position on the chart, making him the second highest driver in the current standings without a win this season.
“It’s a big gain for us and our Caterpillar Chevrolet,” said Newman following the race. “All the guys at RCR and ECR got us that first top five of the season. I’ve got to thank everybody from Caterpillar and Quicken Loans for the opportunity they’ve given us this year. It was a good run. The No. 2 (Brad Keselowski, race winner) was obviously the fastest car all night. The No. 18 (Kyle Busch) got a little bit better there at the end. We were pretty solid. We never really changed the car. It felt like we were pretty neutral and didn’t want to screw it up. So, we ended up where we did.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. earned his ninth top-five finish at Kentucky Speedway by piloting the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS to a fifth-place finish. Jeff Gordon maintained his spot atop the standings with a sixth-place effort at Kentucky in the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS.
Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS ended the night with a seventh place run, followed by Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet in eighth. Jimmie Johnson rounded out the Chevrolet power in the top-10 by earning a 10th-place finish in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS. The six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion overcame a 25th place qualifying effort to give Team Chevy six of the top 10 finishers.
Notably, Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch finished 11th and 12th respectively. Stewart overcame having to start at the rear of the field after changing a transmission in his No. 14 Rush Truck Centers Chevrolet SS, and earned his fifth top 10 finish overall. Busch battled an ill-handling No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS to finish 12th.
Brad Keselowski (Ford) was the race winner, Kyle Busch (Toyota) was second and Matt Kenseth (Toyota) was fourth to round out the top five finishers.
Next weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series will once again compete under the lights; but this time on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway. The Coke Zero 400 will commence Saturday July 5th.
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 3RD
KERRY THARP: We’re going to start with our post‑race media with Ryan Newman. Ryan had a third‑place finish tonight in the No. 31 car for us, and Ryan, just talk about driving that No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, had a nice run out there tonight, running up front the entire evening, and that has to make you feel confident now as we’re kind of at the midpoint of the Chase and certainly next week at a track you’ve won at before. Talk about your run.
RYAN NEWMAN: Really just a good, solid run. We had some really good pit stops, gained some track positions there. Caught a little bit of a break when the caution came out when we were on pit road. I think we went from fourth to second on that deal. Just a good, solid night for the Caterpillar Chevrolet. All the guys did a really good job strategy wise. Kept our track position all night. Really I think we had about a third‑place car. We could have run with 18 at times, we could run with the 22 at times, but nobody really ran with the 2 car. Good job for everybody at RCR and ECR, and we’ll keep digging.
Q. Ryan, RCR has been really doing a lot to get their program back on the right track. Is this the start of a turnaround?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, it was a good run for us. I think Paul ran up front for a lot of the race. Last I saw, he finished 15th. But from when I saw he had run farther up for most of the race and he’s been our flagship for a top 5 so far this year. It’s nice for us on the 31 side to get a top 5, and it’s something to build on for sure. It doesn’t mean we’re going to go out and win the next race, but it gives us some confidence, and confidence is very powerful in our sport.
Q. Were you comfortable all the way from the very start because a lot of the drivers came in here and all they wanted to talk about was bump, bump, bump, bump, and you did seem to have a really solid run all night long where you stayed where you were at.
RYAN NEWMAN: All we talked about was bumps because that’s the only questions we got was about bumps. Everybody who talked to me asked me what’s the track like being so bumpy and everything else and that’s the questions we answer. We answer the questions you all give us. It’s the character of this racetrack that it’s bumpy. It doesn’t mean that we can’t race on it. I think it was a pretty good race tonight. Brad came up from whatever he was, sixth or eighth or whatever he was in that restart to win the race. But it was more just a product of the questions you guys were asking us than it was what we wanted to talk about.
Q. What’s been the biggest difference in your cars with the work that you guys have been doing? What have you focused on?
RYAN NEWMAN: Tonight it was everything. I’d say the biggest gain we had tonight was our pit stops. The guys gained spots, we did a good job. Everything was nice and clean. Strategy wise, Luke did a great job calling two tires when we needed to and not losing track position with four when other guys were taking two, and all that adds up. Having that clean air and that track position is probably more powerful than anything we do with the race car at times, so that’s probably the biggest difference. We’ve made some gains on the race part, don’t get me wrong, and the guys on the engine side are always working and there’s no doubt that the Hendrick guys have been the strongest this season. Far above, at some trace tracks, but we proved tonight that we’ve made some gains.
Q. You talked about Pocono and Indy. Those are horsepower tracks. Is that where you expect to see even more gains?
RYAN NEWMAN: Pocono, Indy, Michigan, even places like Charlotte now are so much wide open because the cars have still got too much downforce on them that it’s very important to have good horsepower, and good horsepower will win you races. We’re working on that part of it for Indy and for Pocono and for Michigan. I think we’re not where we need to be, but that’s why we’re working on it, and we’ll see if we can make those gains before those races come.
Q. If NASCAR was to say to you, what’s the one thing you would like us to do to these cars, you would tell them reduce the downforce?
RYAN NEWMAN: The same thing I’ve said for the last four years, yeah, just take downforce down and put softer tires on them. It’s got to be a combination of the downforce and the tires. You can’t just leave the hard tires on it and take downforce off. I took my crew chief to Kokomo Speedway Sunday night after Michigan, watched guys run midgets on dirt sideways turning to the right and saw one of the best races I’ve seen all year long, and they had no downforce and they had a huge power‑to‑weight ratio, 375 horsepower with 900‑pound race cars. To me that’s the direction we should always go. They put on a great race, not to say that we don’t, I just think that’s the direction we need to go to if we want to make it better.
KERRY THARP: Ryan, congratulations, and continued best wishes, and see you at Daytona.
RYAN NEWMAN: Thank you, guys.