Ryan Newman became the first surprise Cup Series winner in 2017 and broke a long winless drought for himself and Richard Childress Racing in the process.
Newman, along with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr., didn’t pit after Joey Logano smashed into the wall thanks to a blown right-front tire with six laps to go. The move put the three ahead of race leaders Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson, and the buffer of Stenhouse and Truex Jr. between Larson and Busch on two fresh tires each gave Newman enough of a cushion over the final two laps to sail to victory.
“I’ve lost count; that’s how long it’s been,” Newman said when asked in victory lane about the winless droughts for both he and team. But more on them in a bit. The big story was how a problem for Logano meant Busch didn’t get the win.
Busch was cruising for his first win of the season before Logano had his tire issue. You may remember that the two tangled last Sunday in Las Vegas, when Busch went spinning after contact from Logano after the last lap. Following the incident, Busch tried to punch Logano before being tackled by Logano’s crew.
This week, it was an equipment failure on Logano’s car that cost Busch the win. He restarted fifth after Larson beat him off of pit road. The fifth-place restart spot was costly after Stenhouse — who restarted on the inside line — couldn’t get up to speed quickly as the green flag waved.
“The brakes are fine, we just blew a right front,” Logano said. “Probably just overheated the bead. I am sure that is what it was. There is not much you can do when the right front blows out.”
Busch started his post-race interview remarking that “everything is great.” It’s the same phrase he used ad nauseam after he and Logano met with NASCAR on Friday morning at Phoenix. NASCAR executives have made it publicly clear that they don’t want Busch to retaliate with his car during a race.
The win is the first for Richard Childress Racing since the team won in November of 2013 at Phoenix. The driver for the team that day was Kevin Harvick, who moved to Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of the season. The man he replaced at Stewart-Haas was Newman, who went to RCR’s No. 31 car to replace Jeff Burton.
It’s Newman’s first trip to victory lane since Indianapolis of that year. That’s a stretch of 127 races. The victory also means that Newman will be heading to NASCAR’s playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.
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