LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Ryan Newman held off his boss and teammate Tony Stewart to win his first race of the season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Newman won from the pole and became the 13th different winner in 19 Sprint Cup races. Newman and Stewart made it the first front-row start for Stewart-Haas Racing in qualifying Friday and they went 1-2 again when it mattered on race day. It was a banner weekend for SHR, and Newman and Stewart hope they’ve positioned themselves as Chase for the Sprint Cup championship contenders.
“This was a perfect weekend,” Stewart said. “Just an awesome day for Stewart-Haas. We just needed one day where didn’t have something stupid go wrong.”
It was a pair of near-flawless runs for the drivers as they gear up for a championship run. Newman won for the first time since April 2010 in Phoenix and Stewart earned only his second top-five of the season.
Newman became choked up after the race as he dedicated the victory to the military, friends and relatives.
“We knew we were capable of it,” he said. “We were so close so many times this year.”
Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five.
Johnson and Jeff Gordon, who finished 11th, both rallied from major setbacks for strong finishes. Kyle Busch, who started the race as the points leader, had tire issues, was forced to the garage and finished 36th.
With some of the top drivers scuffling, Newman and Stewart stayed out in front down the stretch. Newman led 119 of the 301 laps and won his 15th career Cup race.
Only seven races remain until the Chase field is set. The top 10 drivers automatically earn a spot. Two spots in the Chase will go to the winningest drivers ranked between 11 and 20.
Newman is in eighth place.
“It puts us in a lot better position that’s for sure,” he said.
He’s the latest new face in Victory Lane for 2011. The 13 different winners match the total from last season.
Newman was at home in New Hampshire’s Victory Lane. He also won the Modified Tour race Saturday.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)