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Ryan Newman?! What the heck just happened at Martinsville Speedway? Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson would like to know

  Ryan Newman: 'an impressive day for us.' (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   Bizarre, yes, bizarre. But NASCAR short track racing, particularly at Martinsville Speedway, can be like this: Ryan Newman came from out of nowhere in the final moments to trigger a big crash that proved decisive, taking out the three leaders, and Newman slipped away to victory in the Goody's 500 at Martinsville Speedway…with a trail of angry drivers back in the NASCAR garage.

   Jeff Gordon dominated most of the warm, sunny afternoon, leading 328 of the 515 laps. And the race had boiled down to Gordon versus teammate Jimmie Johnson in the final miles when David Reutimann cut a tire down and then limped around the track for a few laps until just stopping. That forced NASCAR to bring out the caution, setting up an overtime green-white-checkered finish.
   Reutimann appeared to pass up opportunities to get off the racing surface before stopping. He was called to the NASCAR hauler for a post-race discussion with race officials.
    If Reutimann hadn't stopped, either Johnson or Gordon would have likely won, although gas mileage was an issue.

    Ryan Newman comfortable ahead of AJ Allmendinger at Martinsville Speedway's finish line (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   During the Reutimann yellow, every driver except Johnson and Gordon pitted for fresh tires and gas.
   On the green-white-checked restart, Johnson and Gordon, with some 130 laps on their tires, were a bit slower to restart than the herd behind them.
   When Gordon, the leader on the inside, left open the inside line into turn one, Clint Bowyer started to move to take that line. And then Newman drilled him hard from right behind, pushing Bowyer into the hole….and up into Gordon and into Johnson.
   Newman himself slipped through unscathed.
   On the final green-white-checkered restart Newman had the inside and AJ Allmendinger the outside, and the two went side by side for a lap and a half before Newman managed to get clear coming off turn four to the checkered.

     Overtime! One: leader Jeff Gordon (24) on worn tires, gets sandwiched on the restart, when Clint Bowyer (15) makes it three-wide with a shove from Ryan Newman (39). And Jimmie Johnson (48) has nowhere to go. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ran strong enough to win, wound up third in the mess. But Earnhardt was hot about Reutimann stalling.
   "Clint going for the win, and we all get wadded up, that's okay to me," Earnhardt said. "We're racing.
    "I'm just not happy with the way the caution came out.
    "The leaders had more than 100 laps on their tires, and everybody behind them had at least two fresh tires. We all took off and ran into the back of the leaders. Just not enough room for all three of them down in the corner.
   "We tore both sides off my car at the end of the race….unnecessary, to me.
   "But I'd like an explanation from him (Reutimann) or his crew chief why that happened. There doesn't seem to be a logical reason for him to stop on the track like that.
   "I'd like to hear a good excuse…because I think it would be laughable."
    A defensive Reutimann insisted his car simply died on the track: "I would not have stopped on the (expletive deleted) track; the thing quit going on the back straight. I know it sucks for everyone. But I can't get out and push the thing.
   "I was just trying to finish the day out and stay in the top-35.
    "Number one, I just hate it. I don't even know how the race ended up finishing, but I just hate that I was involved in anything that changed the complexion of the race. So I've got to apologize to the guys that it affected.

    Overtime! Two, Johnson into the outside wall, as the melee begins, and Newman (39) looks for a hole (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   "It broke a tie rod or something like that. I was just trying to limp around there. We needed to finish next couple of laps to try to stay in the top-35.
    "Then the motor had been breaking up for the last couple of laps, and it broke a timing belt or whatever down the back straightaway, and the motor just quit. They gave me the black flag, we were coming to pit road, and it shut off. And that's far as I could go."
    To which Earnhardt said he had no further comment.
     Ironically Reutimann is something of a teammate with Newman and Tony Stewart, all running Chevrolet with Rick Hendrick engineering.
    Hendrick was gunning for his 200th tour win as Cup team owner, and until the final moments it appeared either Johnson or Gordon would get it for him.
    Newman, with a nod toward Hendrick motors, said that 200th win "was under the hood."


  Overtime! Three: Ryan Newman (39) escapes as the lead pack piles up behind him (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Newman appeared to blame Bowyer for triggering the melee. But Newman conceded he was trying to move Bowyer out of the way just as he said Bowyer was trying to move Gordon out of the way.
    "If I were in Clint's position, I would have tried not crashing the guys and won the race," Newman said.
    "I was trying to do the same thing to him (on the restart after the Reutimann yellow) that he was trying to do to Jeff.
   "I was attempting to dive bomb under him (Bowyer), and do to him what he was doing to Jeff…but not take anyone out.
   "Whether he was trying to block me or get his run on Jeff, he pulled down (to make it three-wide into the corner), and my little bump, which was a pretty good shot, propelled him up into Jeff.
   "When he got into turn one and wheel-hopped or whatever, he got up into Gordon.
   "If eight tires are better than four, then 12 are best of all.
   "Whether he (Bowyer) hit turn one faster than he wanted to or not, he's still got three pedals in the car, and he can control it.
   "After that it was just a matter of racing AJ cleanly on that restart. And I didn't really feel I was racing AJ, that I was rather racing Junior right behind me."


   Yet another bad day for Kasey Kahne this season. He started from the pole, but never led a lap, and then his engine blew up halfway through the 3-1/2-hour race (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    The Reutimann situation bothered several drivers.
   "David has been around racing a long time," Newman said. "I don't know why he did what he did or whether he was put in that situation, but it worked out for us – we were going to be a sixth place team.
   "It's not the first time someone has stopped on the track at the end of a race and forced a green-white-checkered. But we'll take what we can get. We've lost 'em that way several times."

   "Clint Bowyer dove to the bottom, and it's his right," Earnhardt said. "He was doing what he wanted to do to try and win the race. It's a green-white-checkered and that's what you’re going to get here.
    "It just caused a little bit of trouble on the outside down there, and we ran into Jeff.
    "But I just don't know what Reutimann was thinking, with a broken sway bar and driving around there at 15 mph for two or three laps. Come on pit road. Hell, how many laps down are you?
    "Get on pit road. Get out of the race.
    "It shouldn't have ended like that. It was unfortunate."

    Johnson, who led 112 laps and appeared to have Gordon's measure down the stretch, until eight laps to go, was not happy, though he did salvage 12th.
   "That inside lane is awfully inviting at times to dive-bomb people," Johnson said. "Clint threw a dive-bomb in there.
    "I'm sure once he got in there he realized it wasn't the best idea. It turned me around; it turned Jeff around.
    "But it's short-track racing. I wish Clint was more patient on the restart.
    "Once you come here enough, and you get screwed a couple times, you realize it's not the thing to do. But every once in a while someone will try to take the carrot and it will end up in a crash.  There really is no successful way for it to work, and today was proof.
    "When I heard three-wide, it was pretty late, and I didn't have anywhere to go. I felt Jeff come up into me, and I knew we were in trouble."

    Gordon, after talking with Bowyer, cooled off: "Clint is a friend of mine; he is a great driver.  It was not like him to do that. 
    "He said he got a hit from behind from Ryan.
    "I didn't get the best restart; the tires were really old, and I spun the tires a slight bit. 
     "When I saw him (Bowyer) go down to the inside of me, I knew we were all in trouble.  All I could do was just hold on tight. 
     "It won the race for Ryan.
      "Yeah, that's Martinsville, right?"
    For Gordon it was yet another frustration this season. This time he clearly had the best car in the field, and down the stretch he'd chased down Johnson and just taken the lead when Reutimann brought out the caution.
    "I knew Jimmie towards the end would be tough, he always is, he proved that," Gordon said. "But we stalked him and stalked him and stalked him. 
    "I saw him start to get a little bit loose getting in. I was able to get inside of him.  To be able to get up beside of him, I had to rough him up a little bit.
    "I wish there hadn't been a caution.  I think we had the race right there. 
    "I still thought we had it on the restart.  I didn't get the best restart…but I wasn't expecting somebody to shove to the inside of me and take it three-wide."

    Brilliant afternoon at Martinsville Speedway, and a near-sellout crowd. And a slam-bang overtime finish (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Lets look at the real reason

Lets look at the real reason Rootie was doing everything he could to get the best finish possible. Actually there were two reasons; the stupid top 35 rule and Davids real role of having to keep the 10 in the top 35 so Danica gets a free pass on qualifying. Maybe Jr needs to think of the big picture where his driver is concerned. Was David pressured to stay out as long as he could to protect a top 35 position? That would be pretty much a yes. You only need to watch his interview post race to see how upset he was and to be called to the NASCAR hauler about it.

Danica wasn't there but her being pampered and protected by NASCAR certainly was. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see NASCAR in it's infinite wisdom throw some kind of penalty on David. I also took note of how Mikey had nothing to say, refusing to say, anything when John Roberts threw a question to him about the situation with David. Once again the resident goof showed his true colors.

After hearing Reutimann's

After hearing Reutimann's explanation for why he stayed out on the track, I'm okay with why he did it. NASCAR and the terrible Top 35 rule messed up the finish to that race. Reutimann would have parked it in the pits sooner had that not been in play. He might should have anyway, but NASCAR has made the TOP 35 all meaning for the teams near the end of that threshhold, and I don't blame Reutimann for trying to make sure that his team stayed there.
As for what Bowyer did, he was going to cause a wreck diving down somewhere that he had no business going. I like Bowyer, but no matter why he did it, he shouldn't have. I'm glad he wanted to win the race, but that was a bonehead move. If Kyle Busch makes that move he would be getting crucified by the commentators and fans, but it seems that Bowyer is getting a pass under the cloak of "hard racing".
I guess since there wasn't enough wrecks at Bristol to satisfy the wreck-thirsty "race" fans, they got their tummies full at the end of yesterday's race.

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