LOUDON, N.H. – When it matters most, Stewart Haas Racing is hitting its stride.
Ryan Newman won the fuel mileage game Sunday afternoon, collecting his first win of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season and anchoring the organization's 1-2 finish in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 on Sunday afternoon. Team owner Tony Stewart finished second, as the team posted its first 1-2 finish in its three-year existence.
"We backed up what everybody said we couldn't. Just proud to repeat the performance we had on Friday (in qualifying)," Newman said. "We put it on them today. We don't put it on them every weekend, so we need to relish what we did this weekend."
"It was a perfect day for the organization, for sure," Stewart said. "This was a perfect way to go into an off-weekend. This was big for everybody at Stewart Haas Racing."
Newman, who won his first career Sprint Cup race at the track in 2002, now has three career wins at New Hampshire. He also won the pole for this race, giving him five first-place starting spots in his 19 races at the Magic Mile.
On Saturday, Newman posted his third straight Whelen Modified Tour victory from the pole at the speedway.
"It's a great race track. It's tough racing here. You ask any driver in the garage, and they're going to tell you it's probably one of the most difficult places to pass," Newman said.
"I honestly don't know (why I've had success here). I've always said that this track, you have to only take what it will give you... You just really have to be on eggshells – with the steering, with the gas pedal, with everything that you do. It's a demanding race track."
Newman led on six different occasions in a race that relied heavily on pit strategy from teams. The shuffling for track position via four-tire, two-tire and fuel-only stops started with the very first caution period on Lap 31 and never relented.
On Lap 228, Newman made his final fuel stop of the day – giving him an 84-lap run to the finish. Others who stopped at the same time, including Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya, ran out of gas over the final circuits as Newman kept on trucking.
Newman inherited the lead from Clint Bowyer on Lap 230 and immediately started playing the conservation game.
"I only got nervous when (crew chief Tony Gibson) told me we were eight laps short, then about 15 laps later he told me we were still eight laps short," Newman said. "I was thinking to myself, 'We shouldn't be.' I was worried about that part of it.
"I knew I was doing a good job of saving fuel. It's not easy to do – but it's easier to do here than other places."
Newman became the 13th different Sprint Cup race winner this season.
Denny Hamlin finished third, while Joey Logano finished fourth for his second Top-5 in the last three races. Jimmie Johnson rallied from a late pit road penalty to round out the Top-5.
"We're in a lot better position, that's for sure," said Newman, who led a race-high 119 laps. "We knew we were capable of it. We've been so close so many times this year – we've been in the Top-5, but we just couldn't get to Victory Lane."
Newman moved up one spot to eighth in the Sprint Cup standings with just seven races remaining until the start of the Chase. More importantly, he gave himself a needed win to help his wild-card chances should he fall out of the Top-10. For Stewart, he moved into a tie for 10th – the final Chase spot – with Denny Hamlin
"It's huge," Stewart said. "It's no secret we've been struggling this year, but it really shows me the depth of the people we've got in the organization. It's been one of the weirdest years, in terms of bad luck and bad things happening to us.
"It's easy when things are going right, but when times are tough, when you have a day like today and see how your people battle...that's probably what I'm most proud of."