2010 Ride: No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
2010 Primary Sponsors: U.S. Army, Tornados, Haas Automation
2010 Owners: Tony Stewart, Gene Haas
2010 Crew Chief: Tony Gibson
2010 Stats: 36 starts, 1 win, 4 top fives, 14 top 10s, 1 pole and 4 DNFs, 15th in points
High Point: This driver’s high point came early in the season, when he and the No. 39 team were able to use late-race pit strategy and a green-white-checkered finish to score their lone win of the 2010 season at Phoenix International Raceway. Although Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson were the dominant cars on the day, Newman and crew chief Tony Gibson used a two-tire call on the final pit stop prior to the GWC to line up on the front row for the final restart of the race.
When race leader Jeff Gordon – also with fresh right-sides only – spun his tires on the restart, Newman jumped out front and led the final two circuits to take the checkers. That victory snapped a 77-race winless streak, extending back to the 2008 Daytona 500, and marked Newman’s first triumph since joining SHR the following year.
Low Point: For Newman, the season’s low point had little to do with anything on the track; instead, it was when he admitted to being one of two drivers secretly fined by NASCAR. Prior to the July race at Pocono Raceway, the Associated Press broke a story that NASCAR had fined two drivers as high as $50,000, yet NASCAR never announced the fines nor gave reasoning for the penalty. That weekend, Newman admitted to being one of the men who had been fined, along with Denny Hamlin. After being vocally critical of the racing at Talladega, NASCAR took exception and hit him in the wallet as a result.
In return, that weekend, Newman was forced to not only concern himself with getting the car set up properly, but also answering a barrage of questions from the media about the off-track incident – something Newman did not exactly appreciate.
“What’s the point of the story? Does it have anything to do with making anything any better?” Newman said, criticizing Frontstretch’s coverage of the story. “It’s your job to write good things about our sport, otherwise we don’t want you.”
Team Ranking: Second. Stewart made the Chase in his No. 14 Chevy, ironically using the notes of Newman’s team over the summer to right their ship while the No. 39 simply sunk.
Summary: In his sophomore season with Stewart-Haas Racing, Newman hoped to accomplish the one thing that eluded them in 2009 – a win. Getting that out of the way early in the year, the focus then shifted towards a championship; however, any consistency needed to be a serious contender for the title was never there for the No. 39 team.
Starting the year off with DNFs in the opening two races in Daytona and Fontana seemed to set the stage for what the entire season would have in store. In all, Newman would have four DNFs on the year, three of those coming in the first nine races of the season. While he was able to score four top fives and 14 top 10s, the inconsistent results and poor luck that plagued this team eventually cost them a spot in the 12-man Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Throughout the year, Newman showed his frustration both on and off the track as well. In addition to being hit with a hefty fine by NASCAR, Newman also got into a heated conversation with Joey Logano following the August race in Michigan, one that ended with him pushing the younger driver away.
One of the hardest racers on the circuit, Newman lived up to that reputation on more than one occasion in 2010, but it did not always work out to his advantage. Add in a whopping 23 races in between top-five finishes – from that Phoenix win in April to a fifth in Fontana six months later – and it’s clear to see why the Chase was never in the cards this time around.
Looking to rebound from the disappointing finishes and poor luck that has been following Newman for years, this season instead only furthered the 32-year-old’s continuing slump. In fact, since 2005, the man who was once Rookie of the Year over Jimmie Johnson has only three wins in 190 starts. And after that Fontana flicker of hope, the No. 39 team ended the season with a string of mediocre finishes to make things worse. Even two top 10s in the final two races of the year did little to wipe away that sting of disappointment – both were based more on the luck of fuel mileage rather than contending up front.
2011 Outlook: Much like last year’s outlook prior to the season, Newman and the Stewart-Haas Racing organization are hoping to improve upon their previous performances. Making the Chase in 2009 and scoring a win in 2010, the team is looking to put the two together to be a serious contender in 2011.
However, the continued black cloud that seems to linger over Newman shows no signs of moving on. With a good group of guys working at the shop and at the track, along with Hendrick power under the hood, Newman could very well contend for multiple wins and a Chase berth next season; however, it seems being a title contender is too lofty of a goal.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: D
2007 Grade: C
2008 Grade: D
2009 Grade: B+
2010 Grade: C
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