Ryan Newman defeated Jimmie Johnson in the NASCAR Sprint Cup’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.
Johnson looked to be on the cusp of taking a record fifth Indy win for much of the afternoon, having jumped polesitter Newman in the first pit stops.
The job-hunting Newman then began a valiant chase. The pair were as much as 13 seconds clear of the field at times, as Newman did his utmost not to let Johnson escape.
The biggest gap between them came when Newman took on four new tires at a juncture when most picked two, leaving him down in 13th, although he quickly carved back through the field onto Johnson’s tail.
At the crucial final stops, Newman went the opposite way, taking only two tires as the majority went for four. Coupled with a slow stop for Johnson, that vaulted Newman seven seconds ahead of his rival.
Johnson got that gap down to 3sec but could close no further, as Newman clinched his first Indianapolis win and gave his 2014 job prospects a big boost.
“I watched Jimmie, kept quiet…played the old Pearson role,” said Newman. “I knew I had a good car. Matt’s call gave me the track position I needed, taking the two tires. I was just counting down the laps from that point on.
“I knew a lot of guys needed to pit. I didn’t know how far back Jimmie was. He said four seconds at that point. I knew I had to manage my racecar and my tires. I knew it was so difficult to pass. His car was looking looser and looser as I ran behind him.”
Johnson agreed that track position had been a key factor.
Kasey Kahne shadowed Hendrick teammate Johnson over the line for third.
Newman’s current team boss Tony Stewart was a lonely fourth, followed by Joe Gibbs Toyota driver Matt Kenseth in the top non-Chevrolet.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. recovered from going a lap down with a loose wheel early on to chase Kenseth home in sixth, with fellow Hendrick man Jeff Gordon on his tail.
Penske tried a few alternate strategies but had to settle for a few spells in the lead and eighth for Joey Logano and 21st for champion Brad Keselowski. Juan Pablo Montoya and Kyle Busch completed the top 10.
Results - 160 laps:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 2h36m22.000s 2. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet +2.658s 3. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet +3.183s 4. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +15.465s 5. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota +21.579s 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet +22.377s 7. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet +22.473s 8. Joey Logano Penske Ford +23.539s 9. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +24.510s10. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota +24.731s11. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota +30.939s12. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet +31.285s13. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford +32.243s14. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet +32.820s15. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +34.322s16. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford +35.042s17. Aric Almirola Petty Ford +35.227s18. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota +35.720s19. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet +38.650s20. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota +40.274s21. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford +40.944s22. AJ Almendinger Phoenix Chevrolet +48.946s23. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota +50.083s24. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford +1 lap25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford +1 lap26. Austin Dillon Childress Chevrolet +1 lap27. Casey Mears Germain Ford +1 lap28. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford +1 lap29. David Reutimann BK Toyota +2 laps30. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +2 laps31. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota +2 laps32. Michael McDowell Parsons Ford +3 laps33. Landon Cassill Circle Sport Chevrolet +3 laps34. David Ragan Front Row Ford +3 laps35. David Gilliland Front Row Ford +3 laps36. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota +3 laps37. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet +4 laps38. Jose Wise Front Row Ford +4 laps39. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet +4 laps40. David Stremme Swan Toyota +9 laps41. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota +14 laps42. Timmy Hill FAS Lane Ford +79 laps43. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet +90 laps