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Late Race Pit Strategy Gives Ryan Newman Win in Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway

PHOENIX, ARIZ. (March 19, 2017) – Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 31 Grainger Chevrolet, snapped a 127-race winless streak on Sunday by taking the checkered flag at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway.  Although Newman led just six laps of the 314-lap race, a late-race pit strategy by crew chief Luke Lambert led to Newman’s overtime victory, and his second Cup win at Phoenix Raceway.

“I lost track of how long it’s been (since the last win),” said Newman, who averaged 104.271 mph.” But man, (it was) just a gutsy call by Luke. I called for two tires and he called for none. I’ve won more races with no tires than I ever have before, so I’m just proud of these guys. We had a good car all day, kept it out of trouble, and collected in the end.”

Prior to today, Newman’s last Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win occurred on July 28, 2013 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His previous win at Phoenix Raceway came in the Subway Fresh Fit 600 on April 10, 2010.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota, appeared poised to head to Gatorade Victory Lane, as he held a commanding lead with eight laps remaining in the race. But a caution came on lap 306 when Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, blew a right front tire and made a hard hit on the outside wall. Busch came off pit road second behind Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet. But three drivers stayed out, including Newman. Busch ended the race with a third-place finish.

Larson put up a fight, but struggled to get into second with barely a lap to try to pass Newman and finished second, just 0.312 of a second (about two car lengths) behind. Rounding out the top five were No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who also stayed out, and No. 2 Brad Keselowski.

“Once we got out front, thanks to my pit crew, that car really liked clean air,” said Busch, who led a race-high 114 laps. “So, we just fought a little bit in traffic early on in the race, but we were mindful of that. We just kind of bided our time and got up to the front when we did and then had a little miscue there on pit road with Kurt (Busch). From there, it was just too many cars that stayed out. If it was only two that stayed out, maybe, but we definitely needed the outside like (Kyle) Larson had. Overall, we should be proud of our run today and we move on.”

Logano started on the pole and led all but one lap in Stage 1 of the new NASCAR stage race format. There was one caution for Corey LaJoie, driver of the No. 83 BK Racing Graphics Toyota, hitting the wall on the backstretch on lap 27. The top five at the end of Stage 1 were Logano, Larson, Keselowski, No. 24 Chase Elliott and No. 1 Jamie McMurray.

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, took home Stage 2 after a bold move on a lap 83 restart. Elliott went three-wide on the outside of Logano and Larson, passing both drivers. There was one caution for LaJoie again, and Logano and Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Smithfield Ford, were caught for speeding on pit road. The top five at the end of Stage 2 were Elliott, Larson, Busch, No. 48 Jimmie Johnson and Keselowski.

Words by Phoenix Raceway.  Photos by Jim Hahn/Arizona Auto Scene.

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