Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hello, Newman! Drought ends at Phoenix

He hadn't won in more than three full seasons -- 127 races total. Ryan Newman wasn't about to do anything conventional when a golden opportunity to break the drought fell into his lap.

Crew chief Luke Lambert made the call -- no tires instead of two. When Newman stayed on the track, it proved to be the move that ended the frustration and put his Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet in Victory Lane at the Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was Newman's first since the Brickyard 400 in 2013, and it was made possible when Joey Logano -- of all people -- blew a tire with six laps to go.

After all the talk of the post-race "fight" at Las Vegas between Logano and Kyle Busch during the week, Logano's mishap was the catalyst that led to Busch coming to pit road while Newman stayed out.

In the end, Newman had enough left in his tires to hold off Kyle Larson and put an end to the long winless drought on a day under blazing sunshine with temperatures in the mid-90s.

The irony of it all was dripping as much as Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s ice pack was inside his car on the 1-mile oval.

Four weeks in, and we've had four pretty amazing finishes. Who needs the NCAA Tournament when a) most brackets were already ruined after Villanova's stunning loss to Wisconsin on Saturday and b) the win by Newman may have topped what's found on the Casey Affleck dramatics scale.

If'you saw Affleck's Oscar-winning performance in "Manchester By The Sea," you know exactly what I'm talking about.

But with that said, Newman's win only adds to what's been a pretty amazing beginning to this NASCAR season. Even with Martin Truex Jr.'s stage sweep to the win at Las Vegas, the racing has been far from ordinary.

-Kurt Busch won Daytona on the last lap. First driver ever in the race's 59 years.
-Brad Keselowski won at Atlanta when Kevin Harvick's pit-road speeding penalty cost him.
-Truex won at Vegas when he regained the lead with two laps to go after Keselowski ran into a problem with the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford.
-And then there was Newman, who took a chance that paid off in one of the more unlikely race wins in recent memory.

And that, in a nutshell, is why it will always be worth watching -- from beginning to end.

Follow Tom Zulewski on Twitter @TommyZee81 or email

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