Newman and Stewart remains friends despite the fact the boss made the decision to tell Newman he wouldn’t be back in 2014 and would be replaced by 2003 Brickyard 400 winner Kevin Harvick.
“I’m ecstatic,” Stewart said. “Right there is a big reason why, too. Ryan is such a good friend. I didn’t think it would feel this good as an owner. Because it’s Ryan and a good friend of mine, that’s the gratifying part. Seeing Greg, Ryan’s mom, Chrissie and the kids out there, just knowing we’re a part of it with him, that’s something that’s pretty special to us.
“Even before Ryan came and drove for us, we were friends. So that made that decision and that made that phone call of telling him that much harder. It’s not just winning with a driver that drives for us; it’s my friend out there that won the race today, too. That’s what makes this more gratifying at the same time.”
But they now share a common bond as the only two Hoosiers to win the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“When we were little, this was the place,” Stewart recalled. “This is where we wanted to be. We knew what Daytona was, but this was the place for us as Hoosiers here. To see him get one, I’m glad our last trip to the Brickyard together as teammates, you know, we’re sitting here watching him kiss the bricks today.”
It was a fairly fast and fairly uneventful Brickyard 400 as all 43 drivers finished the race. Newman won at an average speed of 143.485 miles per hour and defeated Johnson by 2.657-seconds.
Johnson’s team is normally the best in the business but on Sunday a little burp on the pit stop cost them some valuable time to the eventual winner.
“What’s on my mind, we win as a team, lose as a team,” Johnson said. “There’s been some late‑race mistakes on my behalf that have taken race wins away from us. Granted not a major event like this. But we win as a team, lose as a team. We still ended up second. We have a lot to be proud of over the course of the weekend. We’ll do the best to let it roll off our shoulders by tomorrow afternoon.
“I think we had like a 17‑second stop. I don’t know what the distance was at the end. I would have been a lot closer to him. Catching them and them passing them is different. I’m not sure what the delta was when I entered the track, how big of a gap I had from the 39 to us. But we definitely had a mistake on our stop. Could have been four seconds closer leaving pit road. Not sure where that would be, like I said.
“Stuff happens. Everybody scans us. When you’re the dominant car, they’re going to do the opposite of what you do. I think I pitted before them, so it was an easy call for them to do the opposite. The 2 (Brad Keselowski) gave them the track position they needed. With the mistake, they had good track position.
“Traffic was tough to deal with. Tires made a big difference. The biggest example to me, I was on two next to the last stop, and Ryan was on four. He was mired in traffic. He worked his way through, started to track me down.
“I think that led Chad to his decision for four on our last stop. With us pitting before the 39 (Newman), it was easy for them to go two at that point. The 39 was coming hard on us.”
After so much buildup about the prospect of becoming the first five-time winner of the Brickyard, Johnson’s goal was not achieved but he is certainly not going to sulk. After all, he now has an incredible 75-point lead over Clint Bowyer in the Sprint Cup standings after that driver finished 20th.
“I can go home with a smile on my face, four time,” Johnson said. “These things are hard to win, having a race winning car like we did.
“Today we were awfully close. These things are so hard to win. 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, but we’ll come back next year and try to do it again.”
Kasey Kahne was third followed by Stewart as Chevrolet swept the top four and all four cars were powered by Hendrick Engines. Matt Kenseth’s Toyota was fifth followed by Hendrick Chevrolets driven by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon respectively.
There were just three caution periods for 14 laps with no crashes. But there were also fewer fans than attended this race back in 1994. Back then; it was packed with a long waiting list. On Sunday, fewer than 100,000 fans were at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
None of that matters to Newman, though, because he has added his name to the rich history of the “World’s Most Famous Race Course” and as a son of Indiana that means something special.
“That’s cool,” Newman said. “I think it’s coincidence that I’m born in Indiana. I would have an appreciation for this racetrack if I was born in Hawaii. I mean, to me I think it helps being born here, it helps growing up close to it, growing up around it and in it, no doubt.
“But I just am a big fan of cars. I’m a big fan of tires. I’m a big fan of making ’em go fast. That’s happened here since 1909. I appreciate that.
“My dad (Greg), I was counting down from 10 to go, so I started at 12. I was trying to trick myself into getting there quicker. I remember my dad always telling me, he was here when Parnelli broke with four to go. With three to go, we made the past where Parnelli made it. Those are the things that are going through my mind at the same time, trying not to hit the splitter on the rumble strips, hitting the right side of the wall. It’s challenging here.”
No one could catch Newman on Sunday because there was no stopping the driver from one of the biggest and most important wins of his career.