AVONDALE, Ariz. – Ryan Newman broke a lengthy winless drought for himself and Richard Childress Racing thanks to a late pit strategy call during Sunday’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix Int’l Raceway.
Newman wasn’t a contender throughout most of Sunday’s race, but a caution flag with six laps to go played right into his hands.
Kyle Busch, who had led every lap of the third stage since taking the lead during a round of pit stops under caution at lap 194 after the second stage, looked to have the race in his back pocket until Joey Logano blew a tire and crashed in turn one with six laps left.
Busch led most of the field down pit road under caution, but Newman’s crew chief Luke Lambert made the call to leave Newman out on track to inherit the lead. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. also opted not to pit.
On pit road, Kyle Larson was able to beat Busch off pit road as both drivers took two tires. That meant Larson would line up fourth, with Busch slotting in fifth.
When the green flag waved Newman got a big jump on the field with Larson following him from the outside. Larson saw an opportunity entering turn one and went to drive under Newman to battle for the lead, but when he made the move Stenhouse filled the hole and the two made slight contact in the turn.
The contact caused Larson to get sideways ever so briefly and that allowed Newman to open up a comfortable lead. Larson was able to gather up his car and pull clear of Stenhouse in the battle for second, but by that point Newman was too far away for Larson to catch him.
Newman ended up beating Larson to the checkered flag by .312 of a second to earn his first victory since 2013 and the 18th of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. Larson tried one last ditch effort in turns three and four to get alongside Newman, but came up short.
The victory also ended a lengthy winless drought for team owner Richard Childress, who hadn’t won a Cup Series race since 2013 when Kevin Harvick won the fall Phoenix event.
“I lost count, that’s how long it has been,” Newman said about the last time he’d been to victory lane. “Just a gutsy call by Luke (Lambert). I called for two tires, he called for none. I’ve won more races with no tires than I have with four.”