HELLO, NEWMAN – Ryan Newman rebounded from a couple of sour finishes to take a seventh place Sunday at Bristol, restoring a bit of sanity to his season.
The Sunday run lifted Newman from 31st to 23rd in the Sprint Cup point standings after runs of 40th at Phoenix and 38th at Las Vegas.
“I’m just really proud of the guys and the way they shook off the disappointment of the last two weeks,” Newman said. “We obviously have not had the start to the season we wanted, but they know what we’re capable of, and they’ve not given up. Hopefully, we can turn this into another good race next week at Fontana.”
BOWYER CAN CUT A DEAL – Clint Bowyer is in the car business – for real.
Bowyer has been in his hometown of Emporia, Kan., this week working on the opening of the Clint Bowyer Autoplex. Bowyer partnered with the Davis-Moore Auto Group to purchase the former Emporia Motors Toyota dealership, where he once worked as a dent repair specialist and detailer.
“This is really a dream come true for me in so many ways,” Bowyer said. “I used to work at that dealership before I ever got to the Sprint Cup Series. I was the young guy running around doing anything and everything that needed to be done. Now I’m in a position to partner with the Davis-Moore Auto Group to buy the dealership and continue giving back to the community that I grew up in.
“This is where I’m from. It’s where my parents still live. I couldn’t be any prouder or happier to be in this position and to continue to support my hometown community.”
RICKY VS. DANICA – For those keeping score, Danica Patrick leads Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1-0 in top-10 finishes this season, but Stenhouse has been the much better points performer. He sits in 11th after four races, while Patrick, whose season has gone downhill since an eighth-place run in the Daytona 500, is 28th.
Stenhouse will be looking to join the points top 10 this week at Auto Club Speedway, where he’ll race a Sprint Cup car for the first time.
“We are bringing the same car that we tested with at Las Vegas,” Stenhouse said. “We had a lot of speed during the test, so I feel confident going into this weekend.”
MENARD NINTH IN POINTS – Paul Menard has been the surprise of the early season at Richard Childress Racing.
Four races in, he’s ninth in points. Teammates Kevin Harvick (17th) and Jeff Burton (25th) have had difficult starts.
Menard has improved each week, finishing 21st at Daytona, 20th at Phoenix, 10th at Las Vegas and ninth Sunday at Bristol.
Auto Club Speedway has been a tough fit for Menard.
"Speeds are really high at Auto Club Speedway, and the tires fall off quickly,” he said. “One of our biggest challenges will be trying to make the tires last as long as we can during a fuel run on the CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet. With tire wear, we can move around a lot on the track and have multiple racing grooves. It's all about lane selection at Auto Club as the racing groove is constantly changing.
“In the beginning of a run we can typically run the bottom groove, but as the tires fall off momentum is important. The higher we can run the more momentum we can carry and we don't have to be as aggressive with the throttle. We had a good finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, another intermediate track, so hopefully that will help us this weekend in Fontana."
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.