CONCORD, N.C. — While Ryan Newman‘s crew chief admits “we were probably not in the right” when Newman missed the backstretch chicane with three laps left in Sunday’s playoff elimination race, Scott Graves still doesn’t “understand why it deserved a penalty.”
Newman, racing ahead of Aric Almirola at the time and in position to advance by one point, briefly shot over the curbing of the chicane before returning to the track. He was quickly passed by Almirola.
But Newman did not stop in the frontstretch restart zone – the penalty for missing the chicane. Then NASCAR ordered him to serve a pass through penalty. He didn’t comply.
With so little time left in the race, he was kept on the track by Graves. In the end, a 30-second penalty was tacked onto Newman’s 17th-place finish. Instead of being one point away from advancing, Newman was relegated to a 32nd-place finish, 16 points behind the cutoff.
“It wasn’t going to matter,” Graves told NBC Sports of serving the penalty. “I wasn’t going to give up the spot on track until we could fight for it. … We were on the blue curbing, but I guess you got to be on the red-and-white curbing. It’s not like we advanced our position, we actually lost a position. So I guess I kind of question the rule a little bit. Obviously, you can blow the whole chicane and you can pass three or four cars. If you’re not advancing your position and it’s actually a penalty, for us to do what we did I don’t understand why it deserved a penalty. Those are the rules.”
As for Newman’s opinion of the chicane…
“I really don’t like this race track at all, so asking me about the chicane is not going to narrow it down,” Newman said.
“It’s not the only mistake I made, but it’s what actually took us out. In the end, just proud of the guys. I let us down on pit road, we had one bad pit stop (stalled on Lap 90). Just lots of little things today. But I felt like I made a lot of mistakes trying too hard. We did not have the race car. That’s what I had to do. I felt like we were in position at one point. Just kept trying too hard to keep (Almirola) behind us. Missed the curbs. It was unfortunate. We came in at a big deficiency.”
Graves knew after last week’s fifth-place finish at Richmond that this weekend would be a challenge because Roush Fenway Racing has not been as strong on the road courses. The team struggled all weekend and wasn’t fast. Changes Graves tried during the race didn’t work and they went back to their setup at the start of the race. Nothing proved effective.
Despite missing the playoff, Newman was given a reason to smile afterward on a hot Charlotte Motor Speedway pit road.
While sitting next to his No. 6 Ford, his daughter Ashlyn helped cool him off by dousing him with water.
“It’s awesome to have her here,” Newman said. “It’s special to me to have her come out and be a part of this. It doesn’t make it all better, but it surely makes it better.”