The Hoosier state embraced one of its own Sunday.
Home-grown Ryan Newman — who has no ride for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season — gave a great audition for potential suitors by holding off Jimmie Johnson to win his first Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Newman, the only driver able to match four-time champ Johnson in speed all weekend, inherited the lead after a cycle of pit stops with 12 to go.
The race was won 16 laps prior with Johnson leading and Newman second. Johnson’s final pit stop for four tires and fuel was a sluggish 18 seconds. One lap later, Newman’s crew on the No. 39 Quicken Loans/The Smurfs Chevrolet nailed a 12-second stop for two tires and fuel to get him in front of Johnson.
That proved decisive as seven leaders then made their final green-flag pit stops from laps 140-148 of the 160-lap race, cycling Newman and Johnson to the front. Newman inherited the lead with a 3.1-second advantage over Johnson. He won by 2.657 seconds.
“This is a dream come true for me,” said the South Bend, Ind., native and Purdue University graduate. “I can’t wait to push my lips on those bricks.”
Tony Stewart, a fellow Hoosier and Newman’s car owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, finished fourth behind Kasey Kahne. Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five.
“He’s a great teammate and he’s an even better friend,” said Stewart, who announced Kevin Harvick was replacing Newman at SHR next season.
“To see him get one, I’m glad our last trip to the Brickyard together as teammates we’re sitting here watching him kiss the bricks today.”
The victory was Newman’s 17th in 424 Sprint Cup races and his first since winning at Martinsville Speedway on April 1, 2012.
The win marked the second time Newman toppled Johnson during the weekend. Johnson, who had won four of the last seven Brickyards entering Sunday, appeared to establish himself as the driver to beat again during Saturday’s qualifying. He held the new track record until Newman bumped him to second — again — as the day’s final qualifier.
Sunday added to Johnson’s runner-up weekend. He led a race-high 73 laps in the No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobolt Tools Chevrolet, marking the first time he’s led more than one lap and not won the Brickyard. Newman led 45 laps.
If there was any satisfaction from Sunday for Johnson, it’s that he added to his Sprint Cup points lead. He now leads Clint Bowyer by 75 points.
“There have been some late-race mistakes on my behalf that have taken race wins away from us,” Johnson said of that costly pit stop. “Granted not in a major event like this. But we win as a team, lose as a team. Having a race-winning car like we did, I hate to let this opportunity slip by but it’s gone. Not a lot we can do about it. We’ll come back next year and try to do it again.”
Newman, still waiting for that new ride, hopes he can say the same.