The Cool Down Lap: Newman's win is vindication for his crew chief, too

LOUDON, N.H. -- Ryan Newman's victory in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway couldn't have come at a better time for Newman himself and his Stewart-Haas Racing team.

LOUDON, N.H. -- Ryan Newman's victory in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway couldn't have come at a better time for Newman himself and his Stewart-Haas Racing team.

That said, the race may have been even more important for Newman's crew chief, Tony Gibson, who got the chance to exorcise a demon that had haunted him for more than three years.

Gibson brought Newman to the pits on Lap 217, 84 laps short of the finish. A spate of cautions and his own excellent technique helped Newman save enough fuel--perhaps as much as eight gallons' worth--to allow him to get to the end of the race under power.

Gibson is not a risk-taker by nature, and he had reservations about the fuel-mileage strategy. Nevertheless, he persevered and began urging Newman to save fuel at every possible opportunity.

"I was hounding him on the radio," Gibson said after the race. "I'm sure he got tired of hearing it. He did an awesome job. He's done that several times for us over the past three or four years. It was time to showcase what he can do as far as driving and saving fuel.


"Glad I didn't chicken out on him today."

On April 12, 2008, Gibson did chicken out --and has regretted it ever since. Under a similar scenario on the one-mile flat track at Phoenix, Gibson brought Mark Martin to the pits 10 laps short of the finish in a race he was leading comfortably.

Gibson's calculations, and those of his race engineer, told him Martin was short on fuel. Martin was confident he had saved enough to get to the checkered flag, but the driver complied when Gibson called him to the pits.

"I thought, 'If I fill up, I'm going to finish in the top five,' " Gibson said after that race. "I took the sure bet."

Gibson won the sure bet -- Martin finished fifth -- but it has bothered him ever since.

"I'll never forget that race--it'll always haunt me," Gibson told Sporting News in a telephone interview Monday morning. "There are so many races you can go back and look at and shoulda-woulda-coulda and all that, but that's one race, after it was all said and done, I should have stayed out and won the race.

"I felt like I let everybody down--my team, the driver. If I was in that position again, I was not going to make that same call. I was going to stick with it. I could have stopped and got fuel (Sunday, on Lap 226) when the 14 (Tony Stewart, Newman's teammate and co-owner), the 20 (Joey Logano), the 16 (Greg Biffle) and those cats did."

Instead, Gibson thought keeping Newman out in clean air was preferable to miring him in traffic and forcing to pass as many as 25 cars to get to the front, and he was correct. Gibson said making what he considered the wrong call with Martin helped him make the right one with Newman.


In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won the Phoenix race by staying out and gambling on fuel mileage. Gibson lost the game of chicken to Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus.

"Chad was waiting on me to pit, and I was waiting on Chad to pit, and I buckled first," Gibson said. "That allowed him to slow down even more and win the race. That played in my mind over and over again in the last 80 laps of (Sunday's) race, and I told myself, 'I'm going to gamble on it and go.' "

There's another striking parallel between the two races. The Dale Earnhardt Inc. car Martin was driving at Phoenix was sponsored by the U.S. Army. Newman's primary sponsor at Stewart-Haas Racing? The U.S. Army.

Colonel Derik Crotts, director of strategic marketing for the Army, joined Newman, Gibson and Stewart in victory lane.

"We actually talked about that with Colonel Crotts after the race," Gibson said. "I'm like, 'Man, I'm glad we were able to give this one back to you, because I felt like I robbed you there (in Phoenix).' "

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